As the number of cases grew and the death toll climbed to 20, Iraq on Sunday imposed a total nationwide lockdown until March 28 to fight the novel Coronavirus.
Most of Iraq’s 18 provinces had so far imposed their own local curfews but the new measures would include the whole of the country, according to a new decision by the government’s crisis cell.
Schools, universities and other gathering places would remain closed, as would the country’s multiple international airports.
Many had feared a potential influx from neighboring Iran, where 1,685 people have died after contracting the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
Iraq first shut its 1,500-kilometer border with Iran about a month ago and deployed troops to enforce the decision.
It has logged a total of 233 Coronavirus cases and recorded 20 deaths, but there are concerns that many more are going undetected as only 2,000 people of the country’s 40-million population have been tested so far.
Authorities have struggled to enforce previous curfews, as on Saturday, tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims turned out in Baghdad and other cities in the south of the country to commemorate the death of a revered Muslim imam.