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Coronavirus live updates | Georgian health officials warn public health system may become overwhelmed

16 April 2020
Ekaterine Tikaradze. Official photo.

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10 Jul 2020, 19:25

Georgia bans cars and makes face masks mandatory

The Georgian government has announced a nationwide ban on driving private vehicles starting tomorrow, 17 April, at 12:00, until 21 April. 

The measure excludes those transporting goods and making deliveries but includes taxis.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other commercial activities previously allowed to continue will operate as before.  

The government has also made it mandatory to wear protective face masks inside any building open to the public.

Announcing the new measures, government spokesperson Irakli Chikovani was accompanied by Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director of Georgia's National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Deputy Director Paata Imnadze. Both again urged the public to follow anti-coronavirus measures in order to avoid the virus spreading further.

16 Apr 2020, 20:33

That’s it for today, join us again tomorrow for more Coronavirus live updates.

16 Apr 2020, 20:01

Humanitarian situation in Akhalgori ‘extremely alarming’

Georgian officials have warned of an ‘extremely alarming’ humanitarian situation in the Akhalgori (Leningor) district of South Ossetia.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Georgia's Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, said that 13 people had died due to the South Ossetian policy of preventing residents from accessing medical treatment in Georgia-controlled territory since last September.

Read the full story: Humanitarian situation in Akhalgori ‘extremely alarming’.

16 Apr 2020, 19:55

North Ossetia opens ‘fake news’ investigation

The Investigative Committee of North Ossetia has opened a criminal case against a resident of Vladikavkaz on suspicion of spreading fake news about the coronavirus.

According to investigators, on 6 April, the suspect posted two videos on social media against the measures taken by the authorities in North Ossetia-Alania to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

They said the videos called on people to disobey and violate self-isolation rules.

Meanwhile, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing of North Ossetia has announced they will close churches and cemeteries to the public until 30 April.

The exceptions to the closures are priests and television journalists, who will broadcast Easter services online.

16 Apr 2020, 19:49

Kinotavr film festival postponed

The Kinotavr Open Film Festival, held annually in June in Sochi has been postponed until autumn.

Kinotavr is the largest film festival in Russia.

16 Apr 2020, 19:44

Several Georgians injured drinking boiling water to ‘prevent coronavirus’

Three people in Georgia received oral burns after drinking boiling water in a bid to prevent the coronavirus.

Guga Kashibadze, the director of the Centre of Burn Treatment told Palitra News that none of their injuries were severe. 

‘It feels awkward that I need to tell people not to drink boiling water. I don’t know how boiling water might help against coronavirus, however, I’m confident it will burn your tongue, throat, and lips’, he said. 

16 Apr 2020, 19:41

Abkhazia’s chief doctor criticises church

‘Quarantine [rules] must extend to our Church too’, Abkhazia’s Chief Medical Officer, Lyudmila Skorik, stated in an interview with Russian state-owned media Sputnik Abkhazia today. 

Skorik specifically castigated the Sukhum-Pitsunda diocese for continuing church services without necessary sanitary precautions and with parishioners standing close to each other. 

Skorik called on worshippers, whom she said were mostly people above 65-70 years old, to pray at home. 

The Sukhum-Pitsunda diocese is headed by Vissarion Apliaa, who on 10 April refused to halt church services. 

A number of groups and public figures have recently engaged in a campaign urging believers to abstain from visiting churches during the quarantine, especially on Orthodox Easter, on 18-19 April. 

These include Amtsakhara, a political party associated with president-elect Aslan Bzhaniya, former president Raul Khadzhimba, and the Abkhazian Public Chamber.

Archimandrite Dorofei Dbar, Head of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, a separate church authority based in the New Athos Monastery in Gudauta, confirmed yesterday that they would not offer in-person church services to believers but would broadcast the liturgy online instead.

  For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

16 Apr 2020, 19:17

Metropolitan of Stavropol Krai calls on parishioners to stay home for Easter

In a video message to parishioners, Metropolitan Kirill of Stavropol and Nevinnomyssk said that churches in Stavropol Krai would be open for Easter but called on people to stay at home. 

He emphasised that services in the main temples of Russia including the Kazan Cathedral in Stavropol would be broadcasted live.

In addition, he urged parishioners to refrain from visiting cemeteries.

16 Apr 2020, 19:11

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16 Apr 2020, 18:48

Azerbaijan arrests journalists for ‘violating quarantine’

Since the special quarantine regime was declared in Azerbaijan on 24 March, three journalists have been arrested.

Journalists Ibrahim Vazirov and Mirsahib Rahiloghlu. Photo: Ibrahim Vazirov/Facebook.

This new wave of repression has been condemned by critics of the Azerbaijani government, with Ali Karimli, the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party, calling government actions a ‘hunt’ for journalists.  

The two most recent arrests were that of Ibrahim Vazirov and Mirsahib Rahiloghlu, both of which took place on  13 April. Meanwhile, the third journalist, Natig Izbatov was arrested on 9 April. 

Vazirov was placed under a 25-day administrative arrest, while Rahiloghlu and Izbatov received 20 and 30 days, respectively. All three have been critical of the authorities and highlighted the difficulties faced by Azerbaijanis during the quarantine regime.

Read the full story: Azerbaijan arrests journalists for ‘violating quarantine’.

16 Apr 2020, 18:39

Theologian  ‘attacked for criticising Georgian Patriarchate’

Georgian Theologian Gocha Barnovi has claimed he was attacked by a stranger for openly criticising the Georgian Orthodox Church for disregarding the threat of coronavirus.

Barnovi told Formula News that he was attacked near his home on Tuesday after finishing an interview with TV Pirveli

‘After the interview, a stranger, who was allegedly drunk, approached me and started asking me why I was giving an interview, how dare I give an interview, and why I criticised the Patriarchate. I asked him who he was, after which he hit me’, said Barnovi. 

The Georgian Orthodox Church is preparing to host thousands of worshippers overnight to celebrate Easter, a decision they say was coordinated with the government.

16 Apr 2020, 18:15

Georgia may go into full lockdown if number of cases reaches 2,000

Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze has warned that the public may have to begin informing the government in order to leave their homes if the number of confirmed cases reaches 2,000.

Tikaradze told Palitra that they anticipate reaching 2,000 confirmed cases by 9 May, but that this figure could be up to 4,000 in a worst case scenario. 

If the numbers grow to 2,000, ‘we will have to announce a universal quarantine and take strictest measures’, said Tikaradze, adding that the public will be able to leave their homes only after informing the government about it via SMS. 

‘In the SMS they will have to declare their need and trajectory of movement’, said Tikaradze. 

She added that the ministry was considering including this function in the mobile application unveiled today.

16 Apr 2020, 17:40

‘We won’t be able to count the coffins’ Georgian health official warns

Health officials in Georgia have warned that the country could face a coronavirus outbreak as serious as Italy if people flock to Churches over the Easter weekend. 

The Georgian Orthodox Church is preparing to host thousands of worshippers overnight, a decision they say was coordinated with the government. 

‘Stay home, or what happened to Italy will happen to us’, Deputy head of National Centre for Disease Control, Paata Imnadze, said on Wednesday.

‘We won’t be able to count coffins. Is this what we want? Stay home.’

Read the full story: ‘Stay home or what happened to Italy will happen to us’ Georgian health official warns churchgoers.

16 Apr 2020, 17:26

Tbilisi City Hall closes municipal cemeteries

Starting tomorrow, all 56 municipal cemeteries in Tbilisi will be closed to the public for 10 days.

A cemetery in Guria. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

In a press briefing yesterday, Georgian government spokesperson Irakli Chikovani said that there would also be ‘restrictions’ in cemeteries in other cities but did not give further details.

Yesterday, the Governor of central Georgia’s Imereti Region, Zviad Shalamberidze, confirmed the government had already decided to temporarily shut down access to 16 cemeteries Imereti.

Thousands of Georgians typically gather in cemeteries across the country to mark Easter.

16 Apr 2020, 17:08

Georgians prepare for easter

The Georigian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter this weekend.

Here’s a photo taken earlier today in Tbilisi by OC Media’s Mariam Nikuradze.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The photo of Tbilisi’s Marjanishvili Street shows heavy traffic and crowds of people despite Georgia’s state of emergency.

Here is another photo taken by OC Media’s Dominik K Cagara of a Carrefour supermarket in central Tbilisi’s Atoneli Street.

Photo: Dominik K Cagara/OC Media.

16 Apr 2020, 14:38

Armenian Government approves 13th assistance package

The Armenian government announced it has approved a 13th assistance package.

The beneficiaries of this package include families who as of April 2020 have been receiving social benefits. The beneficiaries will receive additional assistance equivalent to 50% of the sum of their social benefits.

Of the additional assistance, 70% will be transferred to the family along with their social benefits for the month of April. The rest will be transferred to electricity providers as prepayment for the month of April, or if they have debt, the amount will cover unpaid debts.

If the beneficiary is not registered with an electricity provider, then the 30% will be transferred to the beneficiary with the rest of the additional assistance.

The budget of the 13th assistance package is ֏1.2 billion ($2.5 million).

16 Apr 2020, 12:22

Armenia registers second day of more recoveries than new cases

In the last 24 hours, 810 tests were conducted in Armenia, 48 of which came back positive. 

Sixty-one people have been announced as recovered in the last 24 hours as well, registering for the second time more recovered than newly infected. 

According to the Health Ministry, the number of tests done per capita in Armenia is relatively high compared to neighbouring countries and countries with similar populations. On average one in every 16 tests has come back positive.

The ministry also reported that nearly 300 people who have been in state-mandated quarantine have tested positive for the virus to date.

They said this shows the effectiveness of isolating people through quarantine as it helps curb the spread of the virus.

16 Apr 2020, 09:30

Summary

Welcome to OC Media’s coronavirus live updates for Thursday, 16 April. We will be bringing you the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the Caucasus.

The biggest developments from yesterday:

According to Georgia’s Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze, there are a total of 256 infectious disease specialists in Georgia who will only be able to handle 853 patients. 

Talking to Georgian TV channel Imedi last night, Tikaradze also warned that Georgia has over 1700 ventilators stocked but the 488 resuscitation specialists in the country will be able to administer no more than 1200 beds.

On Tuesday, the Public Chamber of Abkhazia, an advisory body of the Presidential Administration, appealed to Abkhazian citizens to celebrate Easter at home so as to avoid the further spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Archbishop Varlaam of Makhachkala and Grozny called on the Orthodox believers of Chechnya, Daghestan, and Ingushetia to stay at home on Easter.

He also said that from 15 April, services in the Makhachkala eparchy will be temporarily held only with the participation of clergy and the necessary parish staff and volunteers.

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Read more from yesterday as well as the latest stories:

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