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12 Mar 2020 | 06:04 AM UTC

Iraq: Officials cancel Friday prayers and Nowruz festivities March 11 /update 12

Iraqi officials cancel activities, gatherings due to COVID-19 on March 11; follow authority directives

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Event

On Wednesday, March 11, Iraqi officials implemented additional domestic measures in efforts to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread domestically. In Karbala, officials have canceled Friday prayers for the second consecutive week.

Officials in the Kurdish region have banned Nowruz festivals which falls on Friday, March 20, and is celebrated by diverse communities across the Middle East and Central Asia. In addition, authorities are limiting personal travel and trade activities throughout.

A nationwide ban on public gatherings went into effect on Monday, March 9. Further, a lockdown went into effect in Najaf governorate on Wednesday, March 11, for a period of seven days, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, March 12, some 75 COVID-19 cases and eight associated deaths have been confirmed in Iraq. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.