Kirkuk streets deserted under Covid-19 variant lockdown

One of the main streets down town in Kirkuk northern province during first day of weekend lockdown on Feb. 19, 2021. Photo by Karwan Salihi.


Kirkuk province and other disputed areas are back to lockdown under new restrictions to avoid the second wave of COvid-19’s UK variant.

Last week, Iraq’s high committee for national health and safety has decided to implement full curfew on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and night curfew from 8 pm to 5 am effective Feb. 18 to March 8 due to spike in Covid- 19 cases.

Kirkuk reporters of KirkukNow said the streets are deserted and people are staying home and only health care and security staff are exempted from the curfew. Kirkuk crisis group decided to shut all Kirkuk checkpoints in face of other cities as part of the new plan to fight the late surge in Covid-19 cases.

One of the main streets in Daquq district south of Kirkuk in the first day of weekend lockdown on Feb. 19, 2021. Photo by Mohammed Almass.

The curfew with neighbor cities starts 8 pm on Friday up to 5 am on Sunday. In town curfew lasts till Monday. Security forces, healthcare staff, pharmacies and groceries are excluded from curfew restrictions.

Iraqi minister of health announced identification of new variant of Covid-19 virus in a press conference on Monday. The ministry has tested several suspects and the cases proved to be holders of the Covid-19 variant, registered fall of 2020 in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths, US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention CDC reports.

Iraqi ministry of health said that Iraq has registered more than 4,000 infections on Friday, half of it are of the new variant of Covid-19 virus. The ministry is monitoring the situation for two weeks, in case of growing infections, curfew might be extedned.

Kirkuk Now reporters in Daquq, Duz Khurmatu district of Salahaddin province, Shingal district in Nineveh and parts of Diyalah province, said thet full curfew has been imposed.

Spokesperson for Iraqi ministry of health Saif Badir said in a statement the new variant is wide spread among young people and children as we. He confirmed that the symptoms are more severe.

Iraq has registered about 662,000 cases and 13,232 deaths since February 2020 up to Friday, daily statement by ministry of health about Covid-19 shows. Daily cases in Iraq have surged from 1.000 cases a day in January to more than quadruple on February 19, pushing the government to take tougher security and health measures.

Ordinary life has been resumed in Iraq since last April as authorities eased restrictions except closure of schools. Pupils used to attend classrooms once a day and schools offer away learning.

Under new measures, schools will be shut up to March 4th . Alternatively, schools will offer away learning.

The new restrictions include intercity travel ban, compulsory masking in and social distancing in the public. Penalty for violation is (17-70 USD). All mosques and worship houses will be closed except during prayer times. Funerals, parties and social gatherings are banned. The penalty for violation of social gathering is 5M Iraqi Dinars ($3,500). The shutdown covers malls, cafes, gyms, swimming pools, and cinemas.

Iraq traffic police proposed ($70) penalty for violation in number of passengers. Small trucks are allowed to carry 4 passengers, mini buses up to 6 and only 8 passengers in buses and only 2 passengers in trucks. Motorbikes are not allowed any companion and all should use masks in the public.

Iraq has not started vaccination process but it had come to agreement with three vaccine providers: Pfizer-Biontech, Astra Zeneca and Sinopharm. First batches expected to be received end of February, the minister said.

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