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KRG extends curfew amid uptick in COVID-19 cases

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on Friday another extension of the region-wide curfew until May 10, amid a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The Kurdistan Region’s Interior Ministry first imposed a curfew on March 13, restricting the movement of vehicles, shutting down schools and universities, and suspending work in government institutions. The move came as part of the measures adopted to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus disease, formally known as COVID-19.

The curfews have been successively extended since that time in order to more effectively curb the coronavirus. The population of the Kurdistan Region has largely complied with the KRG’s directions which have played a pivotal role in limiting cases of the disease.

Indeed, the KRG’s health measures have generally been seen as an effective response to the dangerous, highly contagious new disease. Earlier this week, the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq, Dr. Adham Ismail, noted the success of those steps.

“I want to congratulate the Kurdistan Region on their achievement in fighting the coronavirus," he said. "The rate of COVID-19 infections and fatalities in the region is very low compared to other Iraqi governorates.”

READ MORE: WHO congratulates Kurdistan Region on coronavirus response

Paying tribute to workers on May 1, International Labor Day, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani tweeted, “I thank citizens for respecting the lockdown and look forward to more people returning to work in the days ahead.”

In Friday’s statement, the KRG Ministry of Interior said the curfew would remain in place across the Kurdistan Region until midnight of May 10. The order also stated that from 7 p.m. until midnight, except for health professionals and security forces, no other forms of traffic will be allowed.

That measure comes to limit people gathering together during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began last week. Ordinarily, friends and family would celebrate the end of the day’s fast with a celebratory meal after sunset. However, such gatherings are now restricted, in effect, to immediate family.

In addition, “mosques and all places of worship will remain closed,” the Interior Ministry’s statement affirmed, as it explained that the decision had been made after consultation with the KRG’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Health, Islamic Scholars Union, as well as governors and other local leaders.

Moreover, border-crossings and airports will remain closed until further notice, it said.

On Thursday, the KRG Health Ministry announced 14 new cases of COVID-19, all but one in Erbil province. As of today, KRG figures indicate that there have been 381 cases of the virus, including five deaths and 327 individuals who have recovered.