Iraq bars foreign arrivals from China over coronavirus fears

Iraq has no direct flights from China but hundreds of Chinese nationals work on lucrative oil fields across the country

Iraq's interior ministry announced on Sunday that it would not allow foreigners travelling from China to enter the country over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.

In an online statement, the ministry said the step was "part of the protective measures taken by countries around the world to combat the new coronavirus, and out of a commitment to protect its citizens from its disastrous effects and negative consequences for public health and safety".

Iraqi authorities said Friday they had not detected any coronavirus cases in Iraq or among Iraqi expatriates abroad.

Similar to the SARS pathogen, coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

It has infected nearly 14,500 people across China and more than 100 in 20 other countries, including the United States.

More than 300 people have died in China and on Sunday, the first foreign fatality was reported in the Philippines.

Last week, a spokesman for Iraq's foreign ministry told AFP authorities were working to repatriate up to 50 Iraqi citizens -- students and their families -- from Wuhan.

Iraq has no direct flights from China but hundreds of Chinese nationals work on lucrative oil fields across the country, which is OPEC's second-largest crude producer.

Iraq's public health system has been ravaged by years of conflict and poor investment.