An Iraqi student and his fiancee enlisted the help of the police to rescue their wedding after it was nearly cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahmed Khaled al-Kaabi, 23, had been engaged to Ruqaya Rahim since last year. The couple were planning to hold a big celebration with family and friends in the holy southern city of Najaf.

But their plans were shut down after Iraqi authorities ordered a curfew to slow the spread of coronavirus, banning large public gatherings and closing down wedding halls.

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Mr al-Kaabi came up with an alternative plan to postponing the wedding and asked local security forces to help him.

Police provided the groom with vehicles for a procession, complete with music, and transported Ms Rahim to the family home for a tiny celebration of just six people.

The new bride said: “I didn’t expect my wedding to be this way. I was hoping for a party and that we would visit the Imam (religious official). But we were prevented from doing that.”

The government had ordered the closure of Najaf in March. The city is a major destination for pilgrims visiting holy Muslim Shia shrines – including the shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.

The National reported that some 2,000 Iranian visitors had been stranded in the city since the government imposed restrictions on travel last month.

Louay Al Yasiri, governor of Najaf, told a state news agency that the city was dealing with a shortage of medical supplies but the outbreak was “still under control”.

Najaf accounts for a little more than 20 percent of Iraq’s total number of cases, making it among the worst-hit cities in the Middle East by the pandemic.

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According to the Health Ministry, there are 257 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the province, with five deaths. 70 people have died nationwide since Iraq recorded its first coronavirus case in February. Since then, it has recorded almost 1,300 cases.

Iraq’s health minister Jaafar Allawi reportedly told state television the government expects to be able to lift lockdown measures by the end of May if people stick to “commitment to the quarantine”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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