Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, in a commercial district in Najaf, Iraq, Feb. 26, 2020.
Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, in a commercial district in Najaf, Iraq, Feb. 26, 2020.

BAGHDAD - Iraq banned all public gatherings and barred entry by travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain, the health minister said on Wednesday, banning travel to or from a total of nine countries as fears grew over the spread of the coronavirus.

Iraqi citizens are now banned from traveling to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Bahrain, and Kuwait, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi said in a decree seen by Reuters.

Allawi also ordered the suspension of schools and universities, and the closure of cinemas, cafes, clubs, and other public gathering spots nationwide from Feb. 27 to March 7.

Fears over the spread of the virus come as Iraq faces a domestic crisis with nearly 500 people killed since Oct. 1 in mass anti-government demonstrations.

"All gatherings in public places, for any reason, are banned, and the relevant authorities must take all measures to enforce this," said Allawi, who heads the government task force handling response to the virus.

Coronavirus is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

 

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