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Kurdish authorities in Iraq lift lockdown following protests

The reimposed lockdown came amid an increase in COVID-19 cases, but people protested the lack of work opportunities due to the restrictions.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is ending its reimposed lockdown after just one day following protests.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) instituted a lockdown Monday that was to last until Saturday. The measures only allowed for essential movement and for essential businesses such as supermarkets to stay open.

The new lockdown coincided with an uptick in virus cases. On May 29-May 30, registered cases in the autonomous part of northern Iraq went up by more than 100. The situation is particularly bad in Sulaimaniyah province, according to KRG statistics.

However, the KRG announced today that it would lift the measures Wednesday. Businesses such as restaurants, gyms and hotels will be allowed to reopen with health guidelines in place — such as the mandatory use of face masks, the Kurdish outlet Rudaw reported.

The restrictions left many people unable to work in the Kurdistan Region and protests began Monday and continued today over the lack of work and poor economic conditions under the lockdown. The pro-Kurdish opposition outlet NRT reported protests in Sulaimaniyah, Erbil and smaller towns.

The KRG is currently in an economic crisis due to the collapse in global oil prices and a budget dispute with Baghdad, making it unlikely that the KRG could provide financial assistance to people.

The KRG first instituted the measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in March and then eased them significantly in May, allowing many businesses to reopen. The region has had at least 753 registered cases of the novel coronavirus so far, according to its statistics. COVID-19 cases went up by 19 on the first day of the lockdown, Rudaw reported.

The protests came at a time of tensions between citizens and the government. Many teachers in KRG public schools are frustrated over delays in their salary payments and they protested about this in May.