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Kurdistan Region parliament in Iraq closes after COVID-19 cases

Some members and staff were found to have COVID-19 after tests as the virus spreads quickly throughout the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Members of the Parliament of the Kurdistan region vote on the ministerial list of the Kurdistan Regional Government headed by Masrour Barzani in Erbil, Iraq July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari - RC1EA4570DE0

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s parliament is closing for two weeks after some members and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The body in the autonomous part of northern Iraq said the outbreak began when a parliament staff member caught the novel coronavirus. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) health authorities then tested 197 parliamentarians and staff members Tuesday. The results indicated some tested positive for the virus and the parliament is now closed for two weeks, the Kurdistan parliament said in a tweet today.

There are 111 members of the Kurdistan Region’s parliament and the body instructed any members or employees who were not tested to be tested immediately.

“We ask everyone in Kurdistan to follow preventive measures, protect yourselves,” the parliament said in the tweet.

Iraq is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. The country has been registering more than 1,000 cases a day, including 1,146 today, according to the Health Ministry. The Kurdistan Region city of Sulaimaniyah is one of the centers of the contagion and there were 113  cases registered there today. Erbil, where the Kurdistan Region parliament is located, had 60 cases today, according to the ministry.

The KRG has started having meetings online to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Kurdistan Region has oscillated between reimposing strict movement measures and lifting them due to public pressure. Many people have been unable to earn money during the lockdowns and want to return to work.

Kurdish authorities are worried about the virus’ spread. KRG Health Minister Saman Barzanji said the recent spike in cases following the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday could be a “health catastrophe.”

He said that as new cases surge, "the number of recoveries has disproportionately decreased" compared to period before Eid al-Fitr, according to a report in the Iraqi Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

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