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Iraqi, Kuwait Restrict Entry Of Iranian Citizens Amid Virus Fears

Residents of Qom wear face masks after Iranian authorities reported the deaths of two men in the city.

Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan have temporarily restricted the entry of Iranians into their country in an effort to stem the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus following Iran's announcement that two people there had died from the disease. The death toll has since risen to four.

The Iraqi Border Crossing Authority on February 20 said Iranian travelers will be denied entry to Iraq through shared border crossings for at least the next three days.

It also said Iraqis returning from Iran will be subjected "to the procedures adopted by the Iraqi Ministry of Health."

Iraq’s national carrier, Iraqi Airways, has also suspended flights to Iran.

The moves came after the Iranian holy city of Qom announced emergency measures to stem a possible outbreak of the virus following the deaths of two men there.

Millions of Iranians traditionally travel to Iraq to visit Shi'ite holy sites in the country, as do Iraqis to Iran.

Separately, Kuwait's ports authority suspended the movement of people to and from Iran until further notice over concerns about the spread of the virus, state news agency KUNA said early on February 21.

A day earlier, Kuwait Airways suspended all flights to Iran on the advice of the Kuwaiti Health Ministry and the civil aviation authority.

Iranian officials say Afghanistan has also indicted it wants to cancel flights between the two countries.

The coronavirus, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed 2,118 people and infected 74,576 people on mainland China, with hundreds more having been infected in nearly 30 countries.

Iran has detected five infected persons, the first cases reported in the Middle East.

Authorities in Qom, a city of some 1.2 million people, have asked residents to avoid unnecessary physical contact, including shaking hands or kissing, following the deaths of two older men.

The Health Ministry said both men had come to the hospital with breathing problems and were tested positive for a strain of the coronavirus

Neither man had traveled outside of the city that is considered holy to Shi’ite Muslims, nor are they thought to have had contact with Chinese tourists.

Health officials urged that all religious gatherings be suspended in the city, according to Iranian media.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, ISNA, and IRNA