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Iraq to bar pilgrims over COVID-19 fears

A man sprays disinfectant over people taking part in mourning rituals to commemorate Ashura during the Islamic month of Muharramon on August 29, 2020 in Karbala, Iraq [Hawre Khalid/Getty Images]
A man sprays disinfectant over people taking part in mourning rituals to commemorate Ashura during the Islamic month of Muharramon on August 29, 2020 in Karbala, Iraq [Hawre Khalid/Getty Images]

Iraq is to bar entry to religious pilgrims to the country, its government health committee said in a statement on Monday, just weeks ahead of a Shi’ite Muslim pilgrimage which is the largest annual religious gathering in the world.

Arbaeen, due in early October, usually draws millions of people to the holy city of Kerbala.

The virus is spreading in Iraq faster than most countries in the Middle East, as it records several thousand new cases every day. More than 8,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Iraq and more than 300,000 have been infected, according to the Health Ministry.

“The committee … decided to ban the entry of (religious) visitors from any country in the world,” the statement said.

READ: Defying fatwa, Iraqis flock to COVID cemetery to exhume dead, re-bury elsewhere

It gave no further details about travel to and from Iraq for other visitors and did not say how long the ban would last or when it would be implemented.

The statement said places of worship would be opened provided they adhere to health and safety standards over the coronavirus pandemic.

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CoronavirusIraqMiddle EastNews
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