Iraq airspace reopens after months of virus lockdown
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Iraq reopened to commercial flights on Thursday after four months of lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which brought the country's fragile economy to its knees.
Planes were wheels up on Thursday morning from Baghdad International Airport destined for Lebanon and Turkey, AFP reporters said. Before boarding, passengers were required to show negative COVID-19 test results to airport staff wearing masks and gloves.
Airports in the cities of Najaf and Basra south of the capital also reopened on Thursday, but those in Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, in the northern Kurdish region, said they would reopen on August 1. Iraqi authorities lifted other restrictions earlier this month, allowing malls and shops to reopen and delaying the start of overnight curfews to 9:30 pm (1830 GMT).
Restaurants and coffee shops remain closed to customers but are allowed to fulfil takeaway or delivery orders. A full lockdown will be briefly reimposed at the end of July for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday before being entirely lifted.
Some medics fear a return to normal life is premature as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise, reaching nearly 100,000 with more than 4,000 deaths. The pandemic overwhelmed Iraqi hospitals, already strained by decades of back-to-back conflicts and poor investment.
It crippled Iraq's modest private sector while oil sales -- which the government relies on for more than 90 percent of its state revenues -- were hit hard by the collapse in crude prices.