Iraqi authorities plan to invite Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki for talks about the situation related to the spread of COVID-19 in Iranian cities and efforts to stop the virus’s spread into Iraq, Omar Al-Waili, chief of Iraq’s Border and Ports Authority, has said.
“In a meeting with Iran’s ambassador to Iran, the special commission on the fight against the coronavirus in Iraq has agreed to send an invitation to Iran’s minister of health to Baghdad to discuss recent developments and measures taken in connection with the coronavirus,” al-Waili said in a press statement.
“Based on this meeting, the commission will make decisions on which health measures to take,” the statement added.
Iranian authorities reported that there were 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Islamic Republic on Saturday, with five people said to have succumbed to the virus in cities including Tehran, Qum, Arak and Gilan.
Iraqi authorities have asked citizens to temporarily refrain from traveling to Iran, and banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for a three day period Thursday amid virus fears. Iraqi Airways and Kuwait Airways suspended flights to the Islamic Republic this week. Iran, for its part, suspended religious pilgrimage trips to Shiite shrines in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf.
On Saturday, Iranian television reported that Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of district 13 of Tehran, had been diagnosed with coronavirus, but a spokesman from the mayor’s office denied the report later in the day, saying the mayor was in good health.
Also on Saturday, Iraqi media reported the country’s first possible case of coronavirus, with a medical source telling reporters that a student in Dhi Qar province in the country’s south tested positive for the virus after returning from Qom, Iran. The student is said to have been quarantined for further tests. Authorities have yet to comment on the reports.
Originating in Wuhan, China in late 2019, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 2,350 people, and spread to dozens of other countries around the world, with over 76,000 infections and 21,000 recoveries reported.
As of Saturday, 433 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, another 119 in Japan, 85 in Singapore, and 69 in Hong Kong, China. Dozens more have been reported in the US, Taiwan and Malaysia. Russia has two confirmed cases of infection. In the Middle East, the UAE has 11 confirmed cases, with Lebanon, Egypt and Israel reporting one apiece.
Scientists worldwide continue to work on a vaccine for the virus, which disproportionately targets younger children and older adults. On Friday, Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping said a COVID-19 vaccine would be submitted for clinical trials as soon as April.