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Iraq relaxes coronavirus restrictions ahead of Ramadan

The government announced shops and factories can resume work during certain hours.
People shop after the lockdown measures, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), were partially eased, to prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, in Baghdad, Iraq, April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily - RC2Y8G9E0PGC

Iraq has scaled back some of its anti-coronavirus measures ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, allowing certain businesses to reopen, the government said. 

A statement announced shops and factories can resume work during non-curfew hours, and exemptions for certain businesses, including bakeries and pharmacies, will be maintained. Schools, malls, mosques and restaurants remain closed.

Government offices can resume work, but staffing cannot exceed 25% of the workforce, the statement said. 

In mid-March, Iraq introduced a nationwide curfew and restrictions on travel in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus. Under the new rules, the curfew will run from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and round-the-clock Friday and Saturday.  

It’s also now mandatory for Iraqis to wear face masks outside the home, and those who don’t could face legal action, the government said.  

As of today, Iraq had recorded 1,602 cases of COVID-19, including 83 deaths. The Health Ministry says 1,096 people have recovered from the disease, although there is skepticism over the government’s figures. 

Iraqi Health Minister Jaafar Sadiq Allawi told Kurdistan 24 that the numbers of infections appeared to be decreasing and predicted the virus would “end” in the country by late April or early May. 

“The Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and Jordan are the best countries at a global level” when it comes to containing their outbreaks, he said. 

Shortly after lockdown restrictions were lifted, protesters took to the streets near Tahrir Square in Baghdad. According to Al Jazeera, at least one protester was shot dead and several other wounded by unknown gunmen today.

In the capital and across southern Iraq, sweeping anti-government protests aimed at dismantling the political establishment erupted last fall, prompting the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. 

Although the protests were officially suspended in late March amid coronavirus concerns, Iraq’s major protest squares have remained packed with demonstrators.