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Iraq Reports New Cases of Coronavirus, Bans Travel From 7 Countries

Iraq Reports New Cases of Coronavirus, Bans Travel From 7 Countries

Tuesday, 25 February, 2020 - 10:45
An Iraqi Health Ministry employee checks a passenger's temperature, amid the new coronavirus outbreak, upon their arrival at Basra airport, in Basra, Iraq February 1, 2020. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
Baghdad- Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraq has detected four new cases of coronavirus in Kirkuk province, the health ministry said on Tuesday, bringing the total cases in the country to five and marking the first instance of Iraq patients.

The patients are an Iraqi family who had been on a trip to Iran, the ministry said in a statement. They have been placed in quarantine. Iraq reported its first case of the virus on Monday, an Iranian theology student in the holy Shiite city of Najaf. Schools and universities were suspended for 10 days in Najaf.

Public gatherings in Najaf were banned until further notice and the ministry advised that they not be held throughout Iraq and citizens were urged to avoid traveling to and from the province.

Populist Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold massive protests against his political opponents due to fears over the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday, minutes after the health ministry issued its statement.

"I had called for million man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else," he said in a statement.

Iraq extended an entry ban on travelers from China and Iran and banned travelers from five other countries over coronavirus fears, the statement added.

The entry ban is for travelers coming directly or indirectly from China, Iran, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Singapore. It exempts Iraqi nationals, diplomats, and official delegations. It advised Iraqis not to travel to those countries.

The ministry said the measures were "in order to safeguard the health of citizens across Iraq, and to control the spread of the coronavirus after the first case was recorded".

Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,660 in China, where it originated late last year.

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