Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Iraq extend flight suspensions, nationwide lockdown, through May 31, to curb spread of COVID-19. Other measures in effect.

This alert affects Iraq

This alert began 23 May 2020 01:28 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant travel and business disruptions, heightened security

Summary
Iraq has extended its ongoing nationwide suspension of domestic and international flights through 2000 May 31 to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The measure does not apply to emergency and cargo flights. Additionally, a 24-hour nationwide curfew is in effect 1700 May 21-0500 May 31 as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 during the Eid al-Fitr holidays.

Previously, authorities in Ninawa Governorate announced the closure of the region's borders to nonresidents from 0600 May 21. Similar border closures are ongoing in Al-Qadisiyyah, An-Najaf, and Babil governorates since mid-May. Officials also announced a strict lockdown in several areas of Baghdad for two weeks, starting May 20; affected areas include Habibiya, Kamaliya, Sadr City, Shuala, Ameriya, and Hurriya.

Authorities require individuals to wear masks outside their homes and maintain safe social distancing in stores. Officials also introduced vehicle restrictions nationwide, May 5, based on the last digit of the license plate number. Cars are not allowed to carry more than three passengers. Individuals who do not comply with the measures will face fines. Authorities had also permitted some shops and markets to operate. Schools, restaurants, and shopping centers remain closed, while large gatherings and religious services remain suspended until further notice. Pharmacies, fuel stations, and grocery stores are exempt from the closure order.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

KRG authorities also plan to impose a 72-hour regionwide curfew during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays May 24-26. Additionally, officials will ban travel between the region and the rest of Iraq from May 20 to June 1. The travel ban includes the closure of all border crossings and airports in the region. An online system granting permission for travel between KRG governorates will be closed from 1500 May 22-0800 May 27.

Meanwhile, the KRG reopened churches in the region May 17, and mosques and state institutions May 11. State offices are open 0900-1300 Sunday through Wednesday and 0900-1200 Thursday.

Background and Analysis
Iraq's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19). COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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