Middle East

Iraq to reopen borders for trade, bring back sports and dining

CAIRO (Reuters) – Iraq is reopening its land border crossings, restaurants, hotels, and bringing back sporting events without spectators, the prime minister said on Monday, three days after it recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus infections.

Land crossings would be open for trade only so as to secure local market needs, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a statement. Restaurants and five-star hotels must adhere to public health guidelines, he added.

Sporting events would resume as of September 12. Government agencies can now bring back to work up to 50 percent of their employees, he said. 

Iraq registered its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Friday with 5,036 cases as Iraqis continue to flout lockdown rules, the health ministry said.

It recorded 4,314 new cases on Monday, the health ministry said, and 77 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 264,684 and the total deaths to 7,589.

Kadhimi said the electoral commission would be allowed to open voter registration centers and that its employees would be exempt from the curfew.

The prime minister took office in May as the third head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of unrest in a country exhausted by war with Islamist militants, corruption and economic decay.

He was appointed to head a government tasked with organizing an early election, a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year, and has called one, to be held in June.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Angus MacSwan

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi people wearing protective masks are seen at a shopping mall after malls reopened, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased, in Baghdad, Iraq July 19, 2020. REUTERS/Saba Kareem/File Photo

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