Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Kurdistan Regional Government implements 48-hour curfew in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and surrounding towns, effective 0001 March 14.

This alert affects Iraq

This alert began 13 Mar 2020 14:40 GMT and is scheduled to expire 20 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Travel restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Start Time/Date: 0001 March 14
  • Impact: Entry restrictions, health screenings, increased immigration wait times, business closures

Summary
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has announced a 48-hour curfew in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and their surrounding towns effective from 0001 March 14. Earlier, authorities had suspended all travel inside Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The measures have been taken in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Further measures, including the implementation or extension of curfews and other restrictions, are likely in the KRG and wider Iraq in the coming weeks.

The KRG announced March 11 that it will ban festivals and celebrations for Nowruz (New Day), the Persian New Year, scheduled March 21-25, to stem the spread of COVID-19. Nowruz is a national secular holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran and is celebrated annually by millions of people.

Previous restrictions, including Iraqi Airways (IA) announcing that it would suspend flights to India and Lebanon from March 15 to stem the spread of COVID-19, remain in place. The measure, however, excludes evacuation flights from India, and March 15 will be the last day Iraqi nationals can return to Iraq.

Authorities previously announced that they would impose a temporary lockdown on An-Najaf Province and bar entry to non-residents for one week from March 11. An-Najaf is home to many holy Muslim Shi'a sites and is a major destination for pilgrims.

Iraqi authorities also announced a series of measures March 7 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The government's crisis unit stated that shopping centers would only open three hours a day while schools and universities will remain closed until March 21. Government offices will also be operational for only a few hours a day beginning March 7.

The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated March 6 that Iraq would bar entry to foreigners from France, Nigeria, Spain, and Turkey. This ban does not include foreign diplomats. Iraq previously barred entry to foreigners from Bahrain, China, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand until further notice. The Iraqi Border Ports Authority announced that Iraq would suspend trade with Iran and Kuwait March 8-15 to allow the Ministry of Health time to organize its response to the spread of COVID-19. Iraqis that are currently in Iran will be allowed to return to Iraq as usual until March 15, after which they will be subject to unspecified health screenings and disease prevention measures.

Background and Analysis
The WHO has declared the ongoing coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. COVID-19 originated in China's Wuhan City in Hubei Province. As of March 13, Iraqi authorities confirmed at least 90 cases of the disease.

Advice
Plan for resulting business disruptions. Individuals affected by the restrictions should postpone planned travel. Follow all official immigration and health-screening instructions. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
Kurdistan Regional Government: gov.krd/coronavirus-en