Parts of Iraqi capital go under full lockdown after jump in virus cases

Iraq's health minister announced the new restrictions for some areas of Baghdad today.

al-monitor A muezzin of the shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani prays alone, since all places of worship remain closed as part of the preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease during the holy month of Ramadan in Baghdad, May 13, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.

May 18, 2020

Parts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, will go under a full lockdown after a jump in coronavirus cases, Iraqi Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi announced in a statement posted on social media today. 

The order said there will be a full lockdown starting Wednesday for two weeks in several Baghdad neighborhoods. The areas covered include several populous areas outside downtown Baghdad, including Ameria and Sadr City.

The decision follows 150 new coronavirus cases recorded in Iraq today, with 120 in Baghdad, including 48 in the Rusafa area, the ministry said. Other places where cases were registered included Najaf, Karbala and Sulaimaniyah. 

The decision’s text did not specify what the exact restrictions would be. Past lockdowns in Iraq only allowed local travel to supermarkets and pharmacies. Businesses, restaurants and schools were closed, among other measures.

In a press conference today, Tamimi said these areas were being closed because they had a high number of infections and that other locales could follow if similar case jumps occur. “It’s closing these regions and locales in a full way,” said Tamimi, wearing a mask and surrounded by aides. 

There have been several large protests in Baghdad in recent days following new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s assumption of office. Videos on the pro-protest channel #Save_The_Iraqi_People on the encrypted messaging service Telegram showed Iraqis gathering in crowded demonstrations, some wearing protective masks.

Iraqi provinces began a series of lockdowns in March due to the coronavirus. The virus was particularly widespread in neighboring Iran that month, prompting Iraq to close their border.

Following a drop in cases, Iraqi authorities began easing restrictions in many areas last month.

Iraq is the latest country in the region to reimpose strict anti-virus measures after having eased restrictions. Saudi Arabia announced a five-day lockdown for the upcoming Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday. Kuwait also extended its curfew last week following a jump in cases.

As of today, Iraq has had 3,554 COVID-19 cases, according to Worldometer.

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