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Iraqi Kurdistan reinstates travel ban

Daily coronavirus cases are approaching historical highs in the autonomous part of northern Iraq as vaccination efforts proceed at a crawl.
SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq restricted domestic travel on Tuesday to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The KRG’s High Committee for Combatting COVID-19 banned travel between the Kurdistan Region and provinces in federal Iraqi territory. However, people can circumvent the prohibition by providing a test showing they do not have the coronavirus. UN personnel, international nongovernmental organization staff, diplomats and coalition soldiers are exempt from the ban, as are Kurdistan Region residents seeking to return home. Business and medical travel are likewise exempt, according to a press release.

Anti-virus restrictions continue in much of the Middle East. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are quickly vaccinating their populations, but Iraq and other states remain far behind. Like the KRG, the Qatari government also recently reimposed several closures and other restrictions.

The KRG has restricted domestic travel before and several pandemic measures were already in place. Current restrictions include a public mask mandate and restaurants closing after 9:00 pm in the capital Erbil.

COVID-19 is spreading at relatively high rates in the Kurdistan Region with about 1,000 new cases a day, close to the historic daily high of 1,600 in October, according to KRG statistics. More than six million people live in the Kurdistan Region.

The autonomous region has made some progress obtaining vaccines. The KRG received nearly 44,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March. The KRG began vaccinating health workers the same month.

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