On the evening of 13 January, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the Supreme Health and Safety Committee held a meeting headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in order to discuss responses to the spread of the new COVID-19 variant. Effective immediately, a travel ban was put in effect for 20 countries, expanding the scope of previous restrictions enacted in December. The list of countries designated for a travel ban was updated to include Britain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Spain, Brazil, the US, India, Australia, Japan, South Africa, and Zambia. Only Iraqi citizens traveling from these countries will be permitted entry to Iraq after a 14-day quarantine and a negative PCR test.
As previously announced, foreign diplomatic missions, holders of diplomatic passports, government delegations, embassy workers, and employees of international organizations and service projects approved for exemption, will be excluded from the travel ban, but only after providing a negative PCR test within 72-hours prior to arrival. Variations in the practical application of these exemptions at Iraq’s international airports have been widely reported, with operations advised to confirm exemptions for travelers in advance, and have a copy of related documentation in hand upon arrival. Further guidance is likely to be available for various agencies over the coming 24-48 hours, with the above information provided for situational awareness. It is not advised that organizations attempt to enter Iraq through international airports without first receiving confirmation and proof of exemption. Some organizations have also reported a requirement to provide such documentation to airline personnel in order to board an Iraq-bound flight.
Officially reported infection rates remain moderate despite these concerns. On 13 January, the Ministry of Health reported 867 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths in Iraq, raising totals to 605,416 cases including 12,915 deaths. The KRG Ministry of Health reported 158 new COVID-19 cases and one death in the KR-I, raising totals to 104,774 cases including 3,427 deaths. Of note, KRG Health Minister Saman Barzinji said that health authorities detected a suspected case of the new COVID-19 strand. The patient was an individual from Duhok province who had recently returned from the UK. However, Barzinji added that the individual later tested negative for COVID-19 despite showing similar symptoms. Related concerns were said to involve shortfalls in testing capabilities for the new variant.
For up to date related reporting and analysis, please visit the Talos Website.