Coronavirus live updates | Georgian Orthodox Christians gather for Easter celebrations

18 April 2020
The Sameba Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi this evening. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

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19 Apr 2020, 00:46

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

19 Apr 2020, 00:27

Ilia II gives easter address

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, has delivered his Easter sermon to worshippers gathered at the Sameba Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi.

The Patriarch thanked congregants for still going to church and said he was happy that churches have continued to function. He also hailed doctors, the government, and the responsible actions of citizens which he said had resulted in the pandemic ‘not causing big problems’ in Georgia.

18 Apr 2020, 21:03

Georgian Orthodox Christians gather for Easter celebrations

Georgian Orthodox Christians have gathered in churches throughout the country to mark the coming of Easter.

As there is a curfew in place from 21:00–06:00, parishioners will spend the night at the churches.

Services at the Sameba Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi will be attended by the head of the Church, Patriarch Ilia II. The service will start at 22:00 while the Patriarch is expected to arrive at 23:00.

18 Apr 2020, 20:36

Georgian Orthodox priest urges parishioners to forcefully detain journalists

A deacon at the Trinity Cathedral in Kutaisi has called on parishioners to forcefully detain journalists.

‘Folks, take them and tie them up. If they resist? Subdue them. I’m directly giving you my blessing [to do that]’, Ilia Karkadze said.

Ilia Karkadze. Image via Mtavari Arkhi.

TV channel Mtavari Arkhi has claimed that the deacon was referring to journalists from their channel and that he was upset at their presence in the church ‘without his permission’.

The channel said the incident followed their airing of a report critical of the Georgian Orthodox Church during Palm Sunday.

18 Apr 2020, 19:38

Orthodox Church of North Ossetia refuses to close churches

The Bishop of Vladikavkaz, Leonid Gorbachyov, has refused to close churches in North Ossetia over Easter, calling a decision by local medical authorities ordering them to do so ‘unconstitutional’.

Bishop of Vladikavkaz Leonid Gorbachyov. Official picture.

On 16 April, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing of North Ossetia announced they would close churches and cemeteries to the public until 30 April.

In spite of introducing other measures, like urging those above 65 to stay and pray at home, the Vladikavkaz Eparchy noted that ‘the Russian Constitution forbade issuing laws and decrees limiting rights and freedoms of an individual’ unless it was necessary to preserve, among other things, the health of others. 

‘No law limiting one’s religious freedom has been issued by federal powers in Russia’, the statement issued on Friday noted.

Unlike Bishop Leonid, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, urged believers to stay home as early as in late March. However, he also let the local clergy in the regions regulate the issue.

18 Apr 2020, 18:01

As Easter weekend gets underway in Georgia, Lorenz Hilfiker from CovidinGeorgia.com takes a look at how religious ceremonies in other countries have led to outbreaks.

Easter: Georgia puts all eggs in church’s basket. Are they safe?

18 Apr 2020, 15:41

Several churches defy Georgian Patriarchate and close churches to the public

The heads of several Georgian Orthodox churches in Georgia have called for the public not to attend Easter Services this evening in contradiction to the Church’s official position. Some went as far as banning parishioners from attending.

Thirteen members of the clergy together with 16 theologians issued a joint statement on Thursday saying that avoiding gatherings because of the pandemic was not a betrayal of God. They wrote that they were temporarily halting their own participation in liturgies. 

Teodore Gignadze, who heads the Ascension Cathedral in Tbilisi’s Saburtalo District, was one of the priests to ban worshippers from attending. 

‘The situation is so grave today that we cannot hold parishioners responsible and we should take our share of responsibility as a church’, Gignadze said.

‘It has never been considered a merit for a Christian to sacrifice others. When they put another’s life in danger, this is completely unacceptable.’

Read the full story: Several churches defy Georgian Patriarchate and close churches to the public.

18 Apr 2020, 14:13

Armenia’s cases now doubling every 17 days

Armenia’s Ministry of Health has announced that the rate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is doubling has slowed, to every 17 days. 

According to the ministry, if the trend holds, by 4 May the country will have 2,500 cases and by 21 May it will have 5,000 cases.

According to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in the last 24 hours, Armenia has conducted 1,003 tests, 47 of which have come back positive. 

One hundred and twenty-one people have been announced as recovered in the last 24 hours, marking the fourth day the country has registered more recovered than newly infected. The number of active cases has decreased by 75 since yesterday, from 780 to 705 cases.

18 Apr 2020, 13:44

Azerbaijan to pay social support to 600,000 people in two months

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Friday evening that within two months, the government will be paying monthly social support of ₼190 ($110)  to 600,000 people. He said it was initially planned that around 200,000 would receive the payments but that the government had decided to scale up the programme.

He also asked anyone eligible for the support to open a bank account by May. 

‘The first payment will be made this month, so probably some people will not have the opportunity to open bank accounts. But the second payment will be made in May’, he said. 

Aliyev also said that the government would provide 90,000 unemployed people with public work. 

‘We planned this programme in the range of about 30,000–40,000 people. However, due to the pandemic and given the inevitable increase in unemployment, I gave an order at the initial stage to bring this figure to 50,000. But now, I believe, we should bring it to a higher figure, this year 90,000 paid public jobs should be created’, he said.

18 Apr 2020, 13:10

Georgia receives 20,000 PCR tests from Korea

Georgia has received 20,000 PCR tests from South Korea, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

‘We received those tests as a result of close cooperation with Korea, with the support of Bank of Georgia and the Georgian Embassy to Korea’, the ministry said. 

Photo: IPN.

PCR tests detect the presence of an antigen a person’s body, rather than the antibodies.

Georgia received another 20,000 PCR tests on Thursday. Amiran Gamrkelidze, Head of the National Disease Control Centre said they were planning to build up a stockpile of 100,000–120,000 tests over the following three months. He added that Georgia had conducted over 6,000 tests using PCR. 

Gamrkelidze said there were five laboratories currently conducting testing using PCR. ‘From 21 April there will be six more and there are plans to add six more laboratories in the future to achieve testing of 1,000–1,500 a day’, he added. 

As of 18 April, Georgia has 385 confirmed cases, 84 recovered, and three deaths; 4,971 people are in quarantine. 

18 Apr 2020, 11:25

Azerbaijan to prolong quarantine regime

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced last night that the quarantine regime in the country would be prolonged. 

‘I believe that this will be the right step because so far there are only the first demonstrations of positive dynamics. We must make it sustainable.’

‘Therefore, I believe that in the near future the Operational Headquarters will report this. I believe that the extension of the quarantine regime is the only right decision’, he said. 

Aliyev noted that with the prolongation of the quarantine regime, social protection of the population should be strengthened. 

He also said that the exit from the quarantine regime should be planned in advance. 

‘We have gradually tightened up the quarantine regime and in the same way, we should gradually mitigate it.’ 

18 Apr 2020, 09:30

Summary

Welcome to OC Media’s coronavirus live updates for Saturday, 18 April. We will be bringing you the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the Caucasus.

The biggest developments from yesterday:

In Georgia, The ban on transportation with private vehicles will not apply to clergy and church personnel, the Georgian Patriarchate announced in a statement published yesterday. 

The nationwide ban on driving private vehicles began on 17 April, at 12:00, and will last until 21 April. 

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov has declared a strict quarantine this weekend and has forbidden everyone, except doctors, employees of utility companies, emergency services, and those who have special passes from the authorities from leaving their homes.

A joint statement by Azerbaijan’s  Interior Ministry and The Prosecutor General’s office released on Thursday, reports that Niyaz Niftiyev, a journalist and a member of the Board of the Press Council, who is also a chair of the Binagadi village municipality of Baku, has been detained by Azerbaijani police for selling 431 fake documents that allowed free movement during the quarantine regime.

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