Severity: Critical Alert
Entry/Exit: Authorities in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraq, close borders to nonresidents as of May 18 following increase in COVID-19 cases.
This alert affects Iraq
This alert began 18 May 2020 06:34 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.
- Incident: Restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Significant travel and business disruptions, heightened security
Authorities in Sulaymaniyah Governorate closed its border and banned nonresidents from entering the region as of May 18, following an increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Regional Government (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.
The Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between KRG and Turkey, as well as the Haji Omaran and Bashmaq border crossings between KRG and Iran, are open twice a week to travelers. The border crossings are open 0800-2359 on Mondays and Thursdays. Travelers can apply for permission to travel on the KRG's website.
In the rest of the country, the Federal Government of Iraq's nationwide COVID-19 curfew hours of 1700-0500 remains in place through at least May 22. Authorities will also impose a 24-hour curfew during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays, likely to be May 23-25.
The strict curfew in Al-Qadisiyyah Governorate remains in effect indefinitely. Under the measure, the entrances and exits of the governorate are closed, and a nightly curfew of 1900-0600 is 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.
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.
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.
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.