Iraq reports six new coronavirus cases

A man wears protective face mask, following the outbreak of coronavirus, at a supermarket in Baghdad, Iraq February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq reported six new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases there to 19, the health ministry said.

The ministry said two of the six are in the capital Baghdad and the other four in Sulaimaniya in the north east of the country. All had recently returned from neighboring Iran, which has had the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China, where the outbreak originated.

The health ministry had earlier issued a separate statement telling Iraqis to avoid any gatherings, be it protests, religious ceremonies or social events to avoid catching the virus.

Iraq on Wednesday had banned public gatherings and barred entry by travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain, prohibiting travel to or from a total of nine countries.

Iraq’s first case was an Iranian student who has since been sent back to Iran. The other 12 are all Iraqis who had visited Iran.

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 54, a health ministry spokesman said on Sunday, adding the number of those infected had reached 978.

Turkey said on Saturday it had halted passenger flights to Iraq, Italy and South Korea due to fears over the virus. The land crossing between Iraq and Turkey had also been closed.

Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek, Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Abouleinen; Writing by Ulf Laessing. Editing by Jane Merriman