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Flights between Turkey and Iraq suspended over rising coronavirus cases

Iraq edges close to 5,000 dead as cases continue to rise in both countries
Passengers wearing protective face masks arrive for their flight at Istanbul Airport on the first day of the resumtion of domestic flights (AFP)

Flights between Turkey and Iraq are to be suspended over a rise in coronavirus cases, Iraq's aviation authority announced on Sunday.

Iraq had reopened Baghdad and airports in the south of the country last week for international travel after months of closure.

Iraqi authorities lifted other restrictions last month, allowing malls and shops to reopen and delaying the start of overnight curfews to 9:30 pm (18:30 GMT).

Restaurants and coffee shops remain closed to customers but are allowed to fulfil takeaway or delivery orders.

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Some medics fear a return to normal life is premature as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases continues to rise.

According to figures released by the health ministry on Sunday, there have been 129,151 cases of coronavirus in Iraq, and while 91,886 patients have recovered from the virus, 4,868 have died from it.

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.

About half of Turkey's nearly 230,000 cases and more than 5,600 deaths are in its biggest city, Istanbul, the government says.

The capital Ankara and Diyarbakir in the mainly Kurdish southeast have also been hotspots.