Coronavirus: Iraq says violators will be arrested as cases rise to 346

Public defies curfew despite increase of epidemic

Iraqis wearing masks shop in the southern Iraqi city of Nssiriyah on March 25, 2020 amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  / AFP / Asaad NIAZI
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Iraq said on Wednesday that those who breached curfew regulations would be arrested as coronavirus cases climbed to 346.

“Anyone who violates the ban imposed that aims to limit the spread of the virus will be arrested,” said Baghdad’s Operation Command, part of the Iraqi armed forces.

It said all Iraqi citizens must co-operate with instructions laid out by the security forces.

There is concern that Iraq's health system will not be able to cope with a major outbreak after years of war, UN sanctions, neglect and corruption.


Citizens have been advised not to leave their homes unless there is an emergency, the armed forces said.

“Residents must co-operate with their local security forces such as the army or police before going out,” it said.

Authorities imposed a week-long curfew and lockdown across the country on March 16 to prevent transmission of the virus.

On Sunday, it extended the curfew up to 11pm on March 28. The government also banned all travel between provinces.

Iraq recorded 30 new infected cases and 14 deaths in the past 24 hours, Jaffar Allawi, the Health Minister, said on Wednesday afternoon.

The country has had 29 deaths and 89 recoveries, Mr Allawi said.

Despite the government’s warning people are still going out.

In the southern oil-rich city of Basra security troops are enforcing a night curfew by patrolling the streets.

“We decided to broadcast messages using a loudspeaker telling the public to clean their homes and stay indoors,” a member of the civil defence said.

“There will be consequences."

A video on social media showed an older man shouting at a group of young men sitting in a cafe, telling them to abide by the social distancing rules.

“Didn’t the authorities ban shisha and say that it contains diseases?" he says.

"Leave the shisha alone. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Corona has hit Iraq and you are here sitting in a cafe."

This week hundreds of thousands of Iraqis defied the restrictions and tried to visit a shrine sacred to Shiite Muslims.

They arrived at the shrine of Musa Al Kadhim to the north of the country’s capital, Baghdad.

Security forces in the capital tried to stop them entering the shrine, urging them to go home.