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Iran closes borders with Iraq in run-up to Shia mourning days

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Photo shows a view to the main gate at Parvizkhan crossing on the western Iranian border with Iraq.

Iran has tightened restrictions on travel through western borders with Iraq as authorities struggle to prevent another surge in coronavirus cases in the run-up to major Shia mourning days later this week.

A spokesman of Iran’s customs administrations said on Monday that all border crossings into neighboring Iraq will be closed to passengers until further notice.

Rouhollah Latifi said that borders will even stop processing trade on August 18-19, the two days know as Tasua and Ashura which mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the second Shia Imam and grandson of prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Latifi said the ban would include borders to the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq to stop Iranian passengers from entering the territory with the final aim of travelling into the Iraqi mainland to attend mourning ceremonies.

“All land borders to Iraq is closed for passengers and pilgrims are not allowed to cross the border,” he said.

The announcement comes as Iran is going through a rampant waves of coronavirus infections.

Health ministry figures announced on Monday showed daily death toll from the virus had hit an all-time record of 655 while new confirmed cases had surged to 41,194 over the past 24 hours.

Iran has imposed a full lockdown to contain the new wave of infections caused by the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Travel between all cities across Iran has been banned until August 27 while businesses and government offices will remain closed till next Saturday.

That comes as vaccinations against the virus have accelerated with latest figures showing that an average of 357,000 people have received vaccines every day over the past five days.

Total number of vaccinations reached over 19.16 million doses on Monday, according to health ministry statistics.

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