KRG sets March 15 deadline for returnees from Iran

<p style="text-align: left;">A March 15 deadline has been set by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for people who live in the Kurdistan Region to return home from Iran, which has seen the most serious outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside of China.

Announcement of the deadline followed a meeting of the High Council to Combat Coronavirus in the Kurdistan Region on Monday, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Rudaw reported.
"The deadline for the return of the people of the Kurdistan Region from Islamic Republic of Iran is March 15. From March 16 to April 1, people will not be allowed to return," according to a post-meeting readout.
Nearly 60 cases have been recorded in Iraq, including 13 in the Kurdistan Region. Six people have died nationwide, including one in Sulaimani. Many of the confirmed cases were people who had returned from trips to neighboring Iran, where as of Monday afternoon, 7,161 infections and 237 deaths have been confirmed, according to the Iranian health ministry.
In efforts to limit spread of the virus, the Iraqi government suspended all trade traffic with Iran on Sunday, with plans to reopen the crossings on March 15. However, the ban does not apply to the Kurdistan Region&rsquo;s border crossings, which are currently closed to tourist travel, but remain open to trade from the major goods exporter.
According to the KRG's health ministry, 2,918 people returning to the Kurdistan Region from Iran have been subjected to a 14-day quarantine, where they have been monitored for coronavirus symptoms. Of this number, 1,790 have been cleared to return home.
A two-week closure of government institutions was also announced at the coronavirus task force meeting.
"There will be a public holiday across all ministries, departments and the Kurdistan Region institutions, other than Peshmerga forces, Asayesh (security forces), interior Asayesh and health institutions from Thursday, March 12 to Thursday March 26," according to the statement.
Although their closure lines up with the annual public holiday announced for Kurdish New Year (Newroz) on March 21, deputy PM Talabani urged the public to exercise caution amid the coronavirus threat.
"Please, the two-week [holiday] is for self-protection," Talabani wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. "Do not treat it as you would other holidays. Do not go to crowded places, and adhere to the Health Ministry's regulations."
Kurdistan Region authorities already ordered the closure of schools, banned large public gatherings, and cut government working hours at the end of last month in an attempt to stem the spread of the illness. Erbil city authorities on Saturday ordered the closure of all bars, beauty salons and public play areas from March 8 until April 1.
Primary and high schools are set to re-open on March 28, while higher education institutions including universities will open their doors on April 1, Monday&rsquo;s statement added.
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