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Iraq shuts border with Iran over coronavirus fears

In this photo illustration a coronavirus (2019-nCoV) positive blood sample is displayed on 14 February 2020 in Ankara, Turkey [Aytaç Ünal/Anadolu Agency]
In this photo illustration a coronavirus (2019-nCoV) positive blood sample is displayed on 14 February 2020 in Ankara, Turkey [Aytaç Ünal/Anadolu Agency]

Iraq's south-eastern province of Maysan decided to close its border with Iran yesterday over fears of the coronavirus spreading into the country.

It was reported by local media in the province that the Ministry of Health decided to prevent the entrance of Iranian citizens into Iraq until further notice.

The decision by the Maysan province, which is situated north of the port city of Basra and borders the Iranian province of Khuzestan, comes after news that two Iranians died as a result of the virus and three others have been infected by the disease in the country. As a result, the Al-Sheib border crossing was confirmed to be closed to all passengers and commerce yesterday.

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In the Shia holy city of Najaf, officials warned Iraqi citizens against travelling to the Iranian city of Qom, another Shia pilgrimage destination.

The coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, has swept across numerous countries in the world and gave rise to increased fears of its impact since it was first identified in China's Wuhan province earlier this year.

According to China's National Health Commission yesterday, 126,000 people in the country are currently under medical care on suspicions of having the virus, there are 11,864 cases which are confirmed to be infected, and the death toll there has risen to 2,120.

Though the respiratory virus has not had much of a prominent presence in the Middle East as a whole, countries in the region have implemented a series of preventative measures in order to avoid infections taking root. The measures include the UAE ordering citizens not to touch noses in their traditional greetings, and Turkey's manufacturing of a "fast-results" kit to test for the virus.

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