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Coronavirus live updates | Georgia to close shops and restaurants from tomorrow 

19 March 2020
A health worker on a hospital balcony in Tbilisi. Photo: Tamuna Chkareuli/OC Media.

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You can find the latest updates on the coronavirus in the Caucasus here.

19 Mar 2020, 22:48

Georgian Orthodox Church removes defence of Communion spoon

The Georgian Orthodox Church has removed a statement defending their use of a shared spoon during Holy Communion from their website, OC Media has learnt.

The web address of the statement now leads to a ‘404’ message.

The move comes as the Church’s decision-making body, the Holy Synod, prepares to meet at midday tomorrow.

The 29 February statement had objected to advice from health officials that they instead use disposable spoons, to try to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

‘The tradition of using a spoon in communion dates back thousands of years. Throughout these years, there have been many cases of life-threatening infections, during which Orthodox believers did not fear but strived even harder to get communion through a common chalice’, the Church argued.

[Read more on OC Media: Georgian Church refuses to change Communion ritual despite coronavirus fears]

Earlier today, the Church admitted there were different opinions ‘even within the clergy’ but also called on ‘everybody’ to abstain from voicing their ‘personal positions’ on the matter publicly.

Following their initial statement, which is now offline, the Church agreed to allow state services to disinfect churches, while Georgian Orthodox priests started scattering holy water in the streets of Tbilisi and Batumi to fight the virus.

On 15 March, Metropolitan Grigol (Berbichashvili) of Poti and Khobi Eparchy even questioned if the 'recommendations' voiced by the Patriarchate was coming from the Patriarch Ilia II.

Read the full story: Georgian Orthodox Church removes defence of Communion spoon from website

19 Mar 2020, 22:02

Azerbaijani bus drivers from Mingachevir asked to pay to disinfect their buses

The licence holder for two bus routes, the number 7 and 8, in Mingachevir, Azerbaijan’s fourth-largest city, has said that his buses have not been disinfected for one week because he refused to pay the state disinfection station’s chief doctor to carry out the work.

Ravan Rahimov told Meydan TV that the busses had not been disinfected since 13 March.

Despite a ruling from the President that such work should be paid for by the state, Rahimov says that chief doctor Tahir Sadigov was charging ₼26 ($15) daily per bus.

A photo of the bill. Via Meydan TV.

According to Rahimov, there are 84 buses in total for the number 7 and 8 routes.

Sadigov told Meydan TV that the institution he worked for was an economic entity.

‘We sign contracts with entrepreneurs, pay salaries to employees, and receive medicine. Several management problems are solved with this money. The owner should pay the appropriate price depending on the square meters of a bus. This businessman understands and earns money every day, now he complains about not being disinfected at the time of this coronavirus’, he said.

19 Mar 2020, 21:30

Georgia to close shops, restaurants, bars and more from tomorrow 

All places of trade in Georgia except for supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, post offices, and banks will be closed from tomorrow, the government has announced.

In a press briefing this evening following a Security Council meeting attended by President Salome Zurabishvili and Speaker Archil Talakvadze, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said there was no need to announce a state of emergency yet.

If a state of emergency were declared, the planned constitutional reforms to amend Georgia’s electoral system as per the latest agreement between the ruling party and opposition could be suspended.

19 Mar 2020, 20:55

Georgian military personnel to be confined to barracks

Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Garibashvili has announced that starting from 21 March, the country’s armed forces will be confined to barracks as a precautionary measure to prevent the coronavirus from penetrating military bases.

The measures would restrict army service members from leaving their bases, which Garibashvili said would protect them as well as their families.

Photo: Georgian Defence Ministry

Garibashvili also said that some of the ministry’s personnel had moved to distance work while those whose relatives had been abroad during the last two weeks or had had contact with someone who recently came from abroad were not expected to show up for work.

Staff with symptoms of heavy respiratory infection, those who are immunosuppressed, and pregnant women will also stay at home.

19 Mar 2020, 19:50

Workers stranded on offshore oil rigs in Azerbaijan

Workers on oil platforms owned by Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil firm, SOCAR, will have to stay offshore for over a month.

Mirvari Gahramanli, the head of the Committee for the Protection of Oilmen’s Rights, a Baku based NGO, said the move could have a significant impact on the health of offshore workers, and that it violated the labour code.

Gahramanli said that conditions on the rigs were unsanitary.

She urged SOCAR to review their decision. ‘Otherwise, responsibility for the consequences of this decision (both for the employees and their families) will rest with SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev.’ 

Read the full story: Workers stranded on offshore oil rigs in Azerbaijan due to COVID-19.

19 Mar 2020, 19:24

Azerbaijan stops passenger trains to Russia and Ukraine

From 21 March the movement of the Baku-Kiev-Baku passenger train, and from 26 March the Baku-Moscow-Baku passenger trains will be suspended. 

The Baku-Rostov passenger train will leave for the last time on 22 March. Tickets for this route are being sold only to Russian citizens.

19 Mar 2020, 19:15

Pollution down over Azerbaijan’s Absheron Peninsula

Monitoring of air quality conducted 18 to 19 March by the National Monitoring Department for Environmental Protection of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in Baku and the Absheron Peninsula has revealed that the air has been significantly less polluted recently.

Rasim Sattarzade, the head of the Department, told Trend that the indicators of the last two days, when compared with previous indicators show a decrease in the number of harmful particles of 40% to 50%. 

‘The reason [for the decrease] is that in the last few days the traffic of vehicles in the capital has decreased and the work of public eateries has been limited’, he said.

19 Mar 2020, 18:37

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19 Mar 2020, 17:22

Georgia’s marketplaces remain open

Georgia’s outdoor marketplaces have remained open despite the coronavirus outbreak. 

Georgian PM Giorgi Gakharia said on Tuesday that restrictions would be introduced on public spaces such as shopping centres and marketplace. 

On Tuesday Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze elaborated that ‘there are no recommendations in this respect yet, because open spaces are less risky.

‘However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be recommendations that marketplaces need to pause operating temporarily’, said Kaladze.

Here are some images taken yesterday from the central Station Square marketplace.

Scroll left and right to see more images.

19 Mar 2020, 16:53

Georgian Orthodox Church divided over safety during communion service

The Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church has confirmed that the opinions on religious practices during communion service differ among their clergy. 

On the eve of an upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod slated for tomorrow, they've urged ‘all’ to abstain from sharing ‘personal positions’ on this matter.

A ‘blessmobile’ scattering holy water to fight the coronavirus on Tbilisi’s First Republic Square. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

On 15 March, Poti and Khobi Metropolitan Grigol Berbichashvili, a member of the Holy Synod, questioned the legitimacy of the Patriarchate's statement released on the previous day that offered only slight changes to the Communion practice.

The practise of Holy Communion has been controversial due to the use of a shared spoon, which can act as a vector for coronavirus transmission.

19 Mar 2020, 16:31

Azerbaijani President establishes a fund to support the fight against the coronavirus

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree ‘On measures to protect public health and strengthen the fight against coronavirus infection’, according to which a fund will be created to support the fight against coronavirus.

19 Mar 2020, 16:24

Azerbaijan closes hotels 

Hotels in Azerbaijan are to temporarily close, Gunay Salam, Director of the Azerbaijan Hotel Association told Trend News Agency on Thursday. 

‘Statistics show that hotel attendance has decreased. There is no point in leaving hotels open if no one visits them. We urge hotel owners not to lay off their workers, but to temporarily send them on vacation. Because we urgently need local qualified staff. It took a lot of time to train them’, she said.

19 Mar 2020, 15:53

Armenia announces $260 million assistance programme

During a government session today, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced a state business assistance programme to help the economy develop and increase its competitiveness in a post-crisis situation.

‘The Government will not give in to panic and will not make an emotional, uncalculated decision’, said Pashinyan. 

‘The Government will make sure its decisions serve a developmental purpose.’

The proposal includes an emergency package of ֏25 billion ($50 million) to support businesses. Another ֏25 billion will go to social assistance programmes. 

Almost ֏80 billion ($162 million) will be placed in a fund to restructure the economy in accordance with the post-crisis situation.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan, several credit programmes have been designed, including interest rate subsidisation. 

According to Grigoryan, these programs will serve as ‘financial cushions,’ which will support businesses through times of irregular consumption, prevent them from being overburdened with interest payments, allow them to keep on their employees, and cover utility expenses.

17 Oct 2021, 20:29

Azerbaijan allocates additional $12 million to fight COVID-19 

While congratulating Azerbaijanis on Novruz, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that an additional ₼20 million ($12 million) will be allocated from the President Reserve Fund, ‘so that the fight against this disease will be more effective, and also the financial support of doctors serving patients with coronavirus would further be increased’.

Yesterday the government announced large bonuses to medical workers.

In early March, Azerbaijan allocated ₼10 million ($6 million) to fight against COVID-19. 

19 Mar 2020, 15:02

Armenian cases rise to 122

Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan confirmed today that the number of cases has risen to 122. 

The latest cases are all connected with an unnamed factory in Yerevan. 

Torosyan explained that they still expect the number of infections from the factory to increase due to its size of. 

Currently, there are only 13 patients that are above the age of 60. They do not have fevers and aren’t considered at risk.

Torosyan also confirmed that one of the 122 cases was a nurse who works at the Nork Infection Clinical Hospital where all coronavirus patients are being kept. 

The nurse has been hospitalised and her condition is stable; she does not have pneumonia.

So far, only one patient has recovered, the first case, confirmed on 1 March.

19 Mar 2020, 14:42

Azerbaijani police turn back 500 cars heading for Baku 

Police checkpoints in Azerbaijan turned back around 500 cars heading to Baku from the regions today, police spokesperson Kamran Aliyev says. 

He said that police were also checking the place of registration of passengers in cars registered in Baku, Sumgayit and Absheron district. 

Azerbaijan announced a ban on people registered outside of Baku, the neighbouring city of Sumgait, and Absheron District from entering the area on Tuesday.

The ban came into force today and will last until 29 March.

Baku, Sumgait and Absheron.

The Baku International Bus Station Complex will work as usual from 19–21 March, State Road Transport Service spokesperson Nurida Allahverdiyeva said. 

She said that people wishing to return to Baku will be allowed to do so after their IDs are checked.

19 Mar 2020, 14:30

Kabardino-Balkaria orders price controls in pharmacies

Head of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kazbek Kokov, has issued a decree adopting additional measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the republic.

The decree puts controls on prices in pharmacies for medicine and personal protective equipment.

It also bans public events and advises local residents to refrain from travelling outside of Russia and to regions at risk of coronavirus.

All public institutions are no longer accepting visitors.

19 Mar 2020, 14:20

First Georgian citizen killed by coronavirus

A citizen of Georgia has died in Spain of the coronavirus, Irakli Chikovani, advisor of the prime minister, announced on Thursday. The victim was a 74-year-old woman who suffered from chronic diseases. 

19 Mar 2020, 14:20

127 Georgians have been quarantined for violating self-isolation rules 

According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, police have forcibly quarantined 127 people for violating self-containment so far, including 28 ‘recently’.

The ministry told OC Media that after people are informed they need to self-isolate, they are warned to observe the rules through SMS messages. 

Additionally, operators of 112, the Georgian emergency response service, call those in self-isolation to remind them to follow the agreed rules.

The Interior Ministry also told OC Media, the police officers accompanied by health workers, were conducting random checks on those in self-isolation, detaining those who violate the rules.

Georgian lawmakers are currently considering a bill to clamp down on similar violations.

19 Mar 2020, 14:09

Karachay-Cherkessia begins sanitising public transport 

Compulsory sanitisation of public transport at least three times a day has been introduced in Karachay-Cherkessia. 

The Ministry of Industry and Trade of Karachay-Cherkessia told Interfax-Yug this was a precautionary measure despite no cases of infection being detected in the republic.

Drivers will be provided with disposable masks and disinfectant wipes and products.

Drivers with acute respiratory infections, fever, coughs or runny noses will not be allowed to work.

Similar measures have also been introduced in North Ossetia.

The Ministry of Health of Karachay-Cherkessia also recommends not using cash for payments.

19 Mar 2020, 13:34

Volunteers to help pensioners in Karachay-Cherkessia

The All-Russian Popular Front in Karachay-Cherkessia, an organisation linked to the ruling United Russia Party, has announced they are starting a volunteer movement to help pensioners during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Young people will deliver food and medicine to senior citizens who apply for help at home so that they do not jeopardise their health and stay at home, Region Online reports.

Those who need help can contact the numbers of the Moscow headquarters +7 (912) 994-94-10 or in Cherkessk +7 (988) 615-77-33.

19 Mar 2020, 13:02

School break extended in Chechnya until 25 April

Idris Baysultanov, Minister of Education and Science of Chechnya, has signed an order extending school breaks until 25 April.

‘This measure is related to the fight against the spread of coronavirus’, the report said on the website of the Chechen government.

19 Mar 2020, 13:01

Sixty people quarantined in Kabardino-Balkaria

Sixty people have been quarantined in Kabardino-Balkaria due to a possible coronavirus outbreak. All of them had returned from abroad and will stay under observation for 14 days, the regional department of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s Consumer Rights and Human Wellbeing watchdog reported on 18 March.

The department told REGNUM that there were no confirmed cases of infection in the republic.

International flights to the airport in Nalchik, the republic’s capital, have been suspended. 

Other measures taken include making schools and kindergarten attendance non-mandatory, closing a number of hospitals for non-urgent treatment, and setting up a hospital for patients with community-acquired pneumonia, REGNUM reports.

19 Mar 2020, 12:51

Ski resorts disinfected across North Caucasus

Ski resorts in the North-Caucasian Federal District, which remain open, are being disinfected, according to TASS.

Resort staff are reportedly conducting additional medical examinations and mass events have been canceled.

‘Specialists informed the staff of hotels, restaurants, rental points and company employees about measures to counteract the spread of coronavirus’, Khasan Tamizhev, director general of the North Caucasus Resorts company, wrote on his Instagram page. 

‘Everyone can go to the first-aid post and measure their temperature. We will remind guests about infection prevention measures via loudspeakers and by distributing flyers’.

17 Oct 2021, 20:29

North Ossetia on ‘high alert’

The head of North Ossetia, Vyacheslav Bitarov, has signed a decree putting the republic on ‘high alert’.

Museums, exhibitions, libraries, theatres, concerts, and cinemas that are subordinate to the local Ministry of Culture have been closed and educational institutions closed.

The Ministry of Culture of North Ossetia cancelled all previously planned international events including festivals, exhibitions, contests, forums on 17 March. These measures will stay in place until further notice.

19 Mar 2020, 00:00

Collective prayers continue in Ingushetia

The headquarters of the fight against coronavirus in Ingushetia is organising a ‘comprehensive’ sanitisation of public places, including mosques, paying particular attention to prayer rooms.

The Ingush clergy decided not to cancel collective and Friday prayers in mosques and prayer houses, Mufti of the Republic Abdurokhman-haji Martazanov told Interfax.

19 Mar 2020, 12:01

14 people quarantined in Ingushetia

Fourteen people are currently in quarantine in Ingushetia, Boris Komurzoev, head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-being told Interfax

He also said that a special headquarters to deal with the coronavirus outbreak is operating under the leadership of the head of Ingushetia, Mahmud-Ali Kalimatov. During a meeting of the special headquarters on 17 March, Mahmud-Ali Kalimatov announced that schools and kindergartens in Ingushetia were shutting down.

A number of restrictions will also be adopted for citizens who visited areas in which new cases of infection have been registered.

19 Mar 2020, 11:04

Georgian traveller forcefully quarantined

A man who was travelling from Tbilisi to Zugdidi by minibus was forcefully quarantined after violating the rules of self-isolation. According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, he was pushed by other passengers to get off the minibus in Gori.

He was quarantined in Batumi, officials said.

Video from the Interior Ministry

19 Mar 2020, 11:04

Woman over 80 among Georgia’s two new cases

This morning, Georgian authorities reported there were now 40 confirmed cases in the country. In a press briefing, the Director of Tbilisi’s Hospital of Infectious Diseases, Marina Ezugbaia, said there were three ‘serious cases’, including a woman over 80 who had a pre-existing condition.

There are 1,344 people in quarantine and 216 in hospitals under supervision.

 

 

19 Mar 2020, 10:01

Armenian cases rise to 115

This morning, the Armenian Ministry of Health reported five new confirmed cases of the virus.

After eight more cases were announced last night, this brings the total number to 115, with one patient recovered.

The government has said that epidemiological analysis showed that 99 of the cases were connected to the two primary infection ‘hotspots’ in Vagharshapat and an unnamed factory in Yerevan.

19 Mar 2020, 10:01

Armenia to receive 2,000 more tests by next week

Armenia’s Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan has confirmed that the country is expecting a shipment of 1,000 tests today or tomorrow and another 1,000 next week.

Armenia currently has 3,000 PCR tests for the coronavirus.

19 Mar 2020, 10:01

Armenia announces exceptions for Iran border closure

Armenia’s Ministry of Economy has announced that Armenia and Iran have made exceptions for transporting  medical supplies and goods of ‘economic importance’ between the two countries.

The transfer will take palce at the Meghri land border under the supervision of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee, Ministry of Health, and the National Security Services.

Armenia suspended air and land links with Iran on 24 February due to the spread of the virus in Iran.

19 Mar 2020, 10:00

Summary

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

The latest stories:

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