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Iraq bans travel from seven countries over coronavirus fears

Iraq extended an entry ban on travelers from China and Iran and banned travelers from five other countries over coronavirus fears, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The entry ban is for travelers coming directly or indirectly from China, Iran, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Singapore. It exempts Iraqi nationals, diplomats and official delegations, the ministry said in a statement. It advised Iraqis not to travel to those countries.

The ministry said the measures were "in order to safeguard the health of citizens across Iraq, and to control the spread of the coronavirus after the first case was recorded."

Schools and universities were suspended for 10 days in Najaf, where the first case of the new coronavirus, an Iranian theology student, was reported on Monday, and citizens were urged to avoid travelling to and from the province.

Public gatherings in Najaf were banned until further notice and the ministry advised that they not be held throughout Iraq.

Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,660 in China, where it originated late last year. — Reuters