Erbil, Kalar to close shisha bars as coronavirus preparations continue

Smoking paraphernalia is seen during the "Expocannabis" fair on its opening day in Leganes, outside Madrid, January 26, 2007. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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SULAIMANI — Erbil Mayor Nabaz Abdulhamid announced on Wednesday (February 26) a decision to close temporarily all cafeterias and ban shisha smoking in the city's public places as part of a raft of efforts to prevent a local coronavirus outbreak.

“The decision will be implemented from next week,” Abdulhamid told NRT Digital Media.

“Any place that does not follow our decision will be punished,” he added.

Kalar and Kifri municipalities on Tuesday also decided to close all shisha smoking places as a measure to forestall the spread of the virus.

Kalar Mayor Shahab Ahmad said that the closure is indefinite and their teams will be on watch in the city to enforce the decision.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been recorded in the Kurdistan Region, but five have been confirmed in Iraq, including four in Kirkuk. All of those patients recently returned from Iran.

On Tuesday, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) decided to close all schools in the Region until March 24.

Authorities in Kirkuk also announced that they would close all schools, including universities, for the next fifteen days. All government departments in the province will close, except for emergency services such as the health directorates, civil defense, and police.

Worried about the impact a local infection might have, people in the Kurdistan Region have rushed to shops and markets for food and face masks, especially after the KRG decided to close its border with Iran for most traffic. Fuel tankers were still allowed to cross the border, although drivers will be checked for infection.

Sulaimani Mayor Awat Muhammad said that the authorities are on guard to prevent price gouging.

“Our teams in the municipality, in cooperation with the Sulaimani Asayish, are closely observing the markets and the price of goods in the shops,” he said.

(NRT Digital Media)