Authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have issued stricter measures as of Oct. 26 to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Individuals now have to wear facemasks in all public places and vehicles when there are other passengers. Authorities have banned large gatherings, including weddings, concerts, sporting events, and conferences. Funeral ceremonies and visits to cemeteries are also pohibited.
KRG authorities lifted the ban on travel between the region's governorates and with the rest of Iraq Aug. 21. The region's border crossings with Iran and Turkey are also open. Airports in the region reopened Aug. 1. All outbound and inbound travelers at airports in the KRG must prove that they tested negative for COVID-19 48 hours before their flight. Outbound passengers who wish to take the COVID-19 test must arrive at government-designated clinics with passports, facemasks, and at least IQD 100,000 (USD 84); authorities will only accept Iraqi currency for payment. Test results are likely to arrive within 24-48 hours. Travelers intending to take the test at the airport for outbound flights may face delays. All arrivals are required to quarantine for at least 14 days. Authorities will exempt officials, business travelers, and tourists on a short stay.
Federal Government of Iraq
The Iraqi Ministry of Transport resumed flights with Iran Oct. 12 and with Turkey Oct. 15. Authorities previously stopped flights with the two countries to curb the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, commercial flights to other countries resumed July 23. Travelers flying to Iraq have to take a COVID-19 test not more than 48 hours before departure. Authorities also reopened the border crossings of al-Munzariyah and al-Shaib with Iran, and Safwan with Kuwait, July 23.
Authorities have eased several COVID-19 restrictions, including lifting the nationwide 2200-0500 curfew Sept. 26. Restaurants and five-star hotels have resumed operations, and shopping malls can reopen, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Government agencies can operate with up to 50 percent of their employees. Additionally, Friday prayers at mosques resumed Oct. 9.
Other measures taken by the Iraqi government include:
- Residents must wear facemasks when outside their homes and observe social-distancing guidelines at all times.
- Vehicles are not allowed to carry more than seven passengers.
- Essential businesses, including pharmacies, fuel stations, and grocery stores, are exempt from the closure order.
Authorities could ease restrictions related to COVID-19 or implement additional preventative measures, depending on the disease activity in the coming days and weeks.
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.