Iraq puts France and Spain on coronavirus entry ban list

FILE PHOTO: A man and his wife wear protective face mask, following the outbreak of coronavirus, at a supermarket in Baghdad, Iraq February 29, 2020.REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has banned entry to travelers coming from France and Spain, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, bringing the total number of countries on its entry ban list to 11 as it tries to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The ban does not extend to Iraqi citizens and foreign diplomats, a ministry spokesman said in a statement. Iraq has so far recorded 38 cases of coronavirus and two deaths.

The health minister, who heads Iraq’s coronavirus response task force, called on all Iraqis in Iran - which has suffered the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside China - to return by March 15 before border crossings are closed and only four airports open to them.

Overland trade with Kuwait and Iran is to be suspended between March 8-15, the health minister added in a decree.

Iraq is alarmed about any spread of the coronavirus from neighboring Iran. Iraq’s first recorded case was of an Iranian student who was then sent home, and the rest had all visited Iran recently. Iraq has close cultural and religious ties with Iran and annually receives millions of Iranian pilgrims.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Mark Heinrich