Iraq: Virus lockdown won’t affect Pope Francis’ trip

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Pope Francis scheduled to visit Iraq on March 5

Iraq said Saturday that restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus will not affect Pope Francis’ visit to the country on March 5.

On Thursday, the Iraqi government declared a two-week partial curfew across the country with the exception of the Kurdish region in an effort to contain a sudden surge in COVID-19 infections. The measures include suspending attending to schools, sports activities, and closure of mosques and parks.

The restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on March 4, amid reports that the precautionary measures may be extended.

Speaking to the official Iraqi News Agency, Ismail al-Hadidi, an adviser to the Iraqi president, ruled out postponing Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq.

“Measures to welcome the pontiff are underway as planned,” al-Hadidi said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq on March 5-8, his first-ever visit to the country. The pontiff’s schedule includes visiting Najaf, where he will meet with top Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani. He will also visit the capital Baghdad, Erbil and Nineveh.

Iraq has so far registered 661,477 virus cases, including 13,232 fatalities.

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