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Erbil International Airport. File Photo: EIA

Rudaw – Kurdistan Region’s airports not ready for international flights: interior minister

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region  — Erbil and Sulaimani international airports are currently not ready for international flights due to lack of measures needed against coronavirus, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) interior minister said late Tuesday.  

“Our airports are currently not ready for international flights. Therefore, we have asked both Erbil and Sulaimani airports to get ready by August 1,” minister Reber Ahmed said at a press conference in Erbil, adding that health measures must be taken. He also said these measures will be announced later. 

“The travelers who come [from August] will be tested then sent home. If they test positive but don’t have symptoms they will be quarantined at home if not they will be sent to special hospitals.”

After months of the coronavirus-related ban, Iraq will reopen its airspace for commercial flights on July 23.  

The minister also said that the coronavirus-related ban on traffic between provinces in the Kurdistan Region will be eased, but did not specify when this will take place. The ban on travel between the Kurdistan Region and federal Iraqi provinces remains in place.

However, Erbil governor Firsat Sofi recently announced that the authorities will allow people from the rest of of Iraq to visit Erbil after testing for the virus. He added that these people will be charged around $45 for the test. 

Travelers within the Kurdistan Region will need to apply for online permission in order to move between provinces, according to Ahmed.

The ministry launched the online permission application on its website in March when the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded. It has been deactivated and reactivated multiple times. 

Sulaimani governor Haval Abubakir told Rudaw that they will re-activate the online application system and the applicants will be answered within 24 hours. The decision will be made by governor offices and not the interior ministry itself, he added. 

Abubakir and Sofi have previously called on the ministry to lift the traffic ban between Kurdistan Region’s provinces. 

The KRG’s Ministry of Health  recorded 252 new COVID-19 cases, 122 recoveries and 13 deaths on Tuesday. Most of the cases were from the capital city of Erbil, which has seen a significant rise in cases recently.  

The new data brings the total number of cases in the Region to 11,361 since the confirmation of the first case on March 1. Of this, 6,166 have recovered and 432 have died.

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