Iraq to reopen airports this month

The country is still registering around 2,000 COVID-19 cases per day, close to its highest-ever daily toll.

al-monitor A mask-clad man walks in the vicinity of the Erbil Citadel in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region amid a lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus, on June 30, 2020.  Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 16, 2020

Iraq will reopen its airports on July 23, the government announced today. The monthslong ban on international passenger flights stranded many people in the country, but Iraq is still recording its highest-ever numbers of daily COVID-19 cases.

Curfews in federal territories will also end with the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday at the end of the month. Malls can now reopen, as can some land borders for trade, per the announcement.

Iraq closed its airports to international passenger flights in March to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Some exemption flights from Qatar Airways that cost several thousands of dollars continued every few weeks, as did repatriation and nongovernmental organization flights. The prohibitive costs of the Qatar flights and the ban on other flights led to thousands of foreigners and Iraqis being stuck in the country, including low-income workers.

Iraq has international airports throughout the country in both federal and Kurdistan Regional Government territory.

Some people rejoiced at the news of the airports' reopening in Facebook groups for foreigners in Iraq. But some Iraqis oppose the decision amid the continued health crisis.

“I don’t support opening the airports because the virus is not known at this time,” Fawzi Hafyan, from Erbil, told Al-Monitor. “There are inconsistencies in the information on it, even among doctors.”

Iraq has struggled to control the spread of the virus and has registered around 2,000 cases per day for several weeks. Iraq had 1,695 confirmed COVID-19 cases today, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

One Iraqi doctor told Al-Monitor in June that increased testing, poor health guidelines for infected medical personnel and the need for people to work in the absence of government support are all reasons for Iraq’s outbreak.

Iraq extended previous flight bans for weeks at a time. It is unclear what airlines will fly in to the country from July 23 onward. Authorities in Iraq have also reimposed virus-related restrictions after lifting them in recent weeks.

Many countries in the Middle East suspended passenger flights amid the crisis, but several have now lifted the bans. Jordan also announced today the upcoming reopening of its international airport. Turkey allowed the resumption of international passenger flights in June.

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