BAGHDAD, Dec 22 (Reuters) – Iraq is banning air travel to or from eight countries to guard against the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, and is ordering public venues like shopping malls and restaurants to close, a cabinet statement said on Tuesday.
The two-week travel prohibition comes into effect on Dec. 24 and covers Britain, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Iran, Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands. It could be extended depending on the spread of the virus variant in those nations.
Iraqi citizens in those countries will be allowed to return, subject to a two-week quarantine on arrival.
All land borders with neighbouring nations will also be closed to travellers for two weeks, though the transport of commodities will be permitted, authorities said.
The government ordered malls, restaurants, clubs and other social venues to close for two weeks from Dec. 24.
Iraq has recorded 586,503 cases of COVID-19, including 12,725 deaths, according to the health ministry.
The ministry said it had reached an agreement with Pfizer to import 1.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, which would arrive in the country early next year. (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Pravin Char)
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