The Iraqi Civil Aviation Agency has informed the Ministry of Transportation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that the suspension commercial flights to and from all Iraqi airports would continue until April 11.
The initial decision came on March 17, when the Civil Aviation Agency suspended flights for a week, until March 24, as the government began to take preventive measures to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the highly-contagious disease officially referred to as COVID-19.
As the order was about to expire on March 24, the Civil Aviation Agency extended the suspension of commercial flights until 28 March.
On 28 March, the Iraqi aviation authorities decided to extend the order again, this time putting the expiration date at April 11. The order includes flights from the Kurdistan Region airports in Erbil and Sulaimani.
The decision exempts certain flights, including those of the Red Crescent, as well as health assistance and emergency flights, and those carrying cargo, but not passengers.
Due to the decision many Kurdistan Region residents who have gone to Europe on study or tourism visas are now stranded there amid local curfews or flight restrictions by the Iraqi government to prevent the local outbreak from worsening.
Furthermore, foreign nationals working in the Kurdistan Region are also not able to leave the region and return to their home countries due to the suspension of flights In Iraq and closed borders.
However, Ano Abdoka, the Kurdistan Region's Minister for Transportation and Communication, on Saturday said on Twitter, that Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani had tasked the government with returning citizens from abroad.
KRG diplomats on 25 March assured Kurdish students in Europe they would be able to return to the autonomous region once the coronavirus pandemic passes even if their travel documents have expired.
Most students and tourists from the Kurdistan Region are stuck in the United Kingdom and Germany.