Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Kurdistan region in Iraq reopens border crossings with Turkey and Iran twice per week as of May 15 following closure due to COVID-19.

This alert affects Iraq

This alert began 15 May 2020 17:37 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities have reopened Ibrahim Khalil border crossing with Turkey and the Haji Omaran and Bashmaq border crossings with Iran twice a week to travelers as of May 15. The border crossings will be open 0800-2359 on Mondays and Thursdays. Travelers, however, cannot travel between provinces in Iraq without authorization from officials through May 18. Travelers can apply for permission to travel on the KRG's website. The Federal Government of Iraq and the KRG closed the country's borders to slow of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Authorities imposed a strict curfew in Al-Qadisiyyah Governorate, May 14, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Under the measure, the entrances and exits of the governorate will be closed, and a nightly curfew of 1900-0600 will be in place. Additionally, border closures for An-Najaf and Babil governorates to nonresidents are in place. An-Najaf's border closure will reportedly last until the end of Ramadan May 22.

In the rest of the country, the Federal Government of Iraq revised its nationwide COVID-19 curfew hours to 1700-0500 through at least May 22. A 24-hour curfew will be in place during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays, likely to be May 23-25.

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.

Additionally, the KRG extended its 1900-2359 curfew hours through at least May 18. Offices will open 0900-1300 Sunday through Wednesday and 0900-1200 Thursday. Mosques and state institutions across the region reopened May 11.

Iraq also extended its existing suspension of domestic and international flights through 2000 May 22. The measure does not apply to emergency and cargo flights. Authorities 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.

Significant disruptions to public and private sector activities, including cross-border trade and the provision of travel documents and visas, will likely persist. Authorities could introduce new restrictions, depending on the evolution of disease activity in the coming days.

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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