Iraqi Kurdistan bans Nowruz festivals and celebrations to stem spread of COVID-19, March 11. Additional restrictions likely.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 11 Mar 2020 20:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 14 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Travel restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Date: March 11
  • Impact: Entry restrictions, health screenings, increased immigration wait times, business closures

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

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.

The World Health Organization 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 11, Iraqi authorities confirmed at least 71 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.

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