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Coronavirus live updates | Georgian Church announces common spoon communion 'will not change'

20 March 2020
Andria Jaghmaidze, Head of Georgian Patriarchate's press-service answering questions of journalists after the meeting of Holy Synod. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

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20 Mar 2020, 22:21

That’s it for today’s updates, check back here tomorrow for more: Coronavirus Live

20 Mar 2020, 22:20

Doctor in Stavropol Krai hospitalised with suspected coronavirus infection

A doctor in the city of Stavropol, Irina Sannikova, was hospitalised yesterday with a suspected coronavirus infection.

Another 11 people who came into contact with Sannikova are also suspected of having contracted the virus.

A quarantine has been introduced in the infectious diseases hospital of the city, the Stavropol Medical University, and the Ministry of Health of the Stavropol Krai.

Employees of the ministry who came into contact with this person have also been quarantined.

The patient’s condition is stable. Her tests were sent to the laboratory in the city of Novosibirsk but have not yet been processed.

According to the governor of the region, Vladimir Vladimirov, everyone who has recently had contact with Sannikova and her entourage are being tested. Five-hundred people have already been tested, and another 700 are waiting in line.

There are 137 people in self-isolation under medical supervision in Stavropol Krai and another three are in hospital.

Tests results including all members of the government of Stavropol Krai have so far come back negative for COVID-19.

20 Mar 2020, 22:00

Cultural workers in Krasnodar Krai will continue receiving salaries

Marianna Ustinova, head of the Culture Department of the Sochi City Hall in the Krasnodar Kray, announced that workers in cultural institutions in Sochi will get their salaries for the quarantine period (March 15 - May 1). According to her, it is possible that performances and concerts in Sochi will also be broadcast online.

‘Cashiers, ticket collectors and other employees, who would not be involved in the online performances and concerts, will be placed on paid leave,’ she said.

20 Mar 2020, 21:28

Georgian Orthodox Church officially announces that the use of a common spoon for communion will not change

Metropolitan of Gori announces Holy Synod's decision. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The Holy Synod announced today that the Georgian Orthodox Church will not change the practice of using a common spoon for Holy Communion despite the threat of coronavirus.  

Andria Gvazava, the Archbishop of Gori and Ateni who read the decision of Holy Synod said that humans are ‘facing big challenges, the main reason for which is the distancing from God’.

He said that a church is a place for ‘special performance of the holy spirit’ and that `’suspecting the essence of Holy Communion and rejecting the common spoon as if it is a source of infection is totally unacceptable’.

20 Mar 2020, 21:10

Armenia’s elderly living alone will receive a month’s worth of food supplies

The State Commission implementing and overseeing Armenia’s emergency response announced today that Mission Armenia and the German Red Cross, with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, will provide a month’s worth of food supplies to 4000 elderly citizens who live alone.

20 Mar 2020, 21:01

Georgian Orthodox Church ‘will not change' communion spoon ritual

The Patriarchate in Tbilisi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

After over eight hours of deliberations, the decision-making council of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod have not yet made an official announcement on whether they plan to change the ritual of Holy Communion using a shared spoon. Health officials had earlier warned that this could transmit coronavirus.

However, Archbishop Nikoloz Pachuashvili of the Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo Diocese, a member of the Synod, said that although they support broadcasting sermons to avoid crowds in churches, the ‘sacred liturgy rules won't be changed’.

‘There is no diversity of opinions among Holy Synod members, nobody suspects that somebody might get infected via a common spoon used for Holy Communion. This is ruled out. Therefore, there will be no change of practice’, said Archbishop Nikoloz Pachuashvili.

20 Mar 2020, 20:16

1,600 reportedly under quarantine in North Caucasus

The North Caucasian telegram channel ‘SKFO Telegraph’ has reported that the total number of people in quarantine in the North Caucasian Federal District as 1,600.

20 Mar 2020, 19:41

State workers in Azerbaijan will be placed on one month of paid leave

Employees of government agencies will be placed on paid leave beginning on 29 March until 29 April to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This does not apply to employees of health, law enforcement, and security agencies.

20 Mar 2020, 19:27

Azerbaijan closes all educational institutions 

The Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers has announced that all educational institutions will be closed from 29 March until 18 April. 

20 Mar 2020, 19:09

Armenian police accuse Azerbaijani hackers of spreading disinformation

Armenia’s police have issued a statement accusing Azerbaijani hackers of gaining access to the Facebook profiles of Armenian citizens in order to spread disinformation about the coronavirus. 

The police’s Cyber Crimes Unit said that the people whose accounts were compromised were not aware that misinformation was being disseminated through their accounts. 

According to the statement, these posts were published from Azerbaijani IP addresses.

20 Mar 2020, 19:02

Armenian citizen discovered to have coronavirus in Russia 

The Armenian Embassy in Russia has confirmed that an Armenian citizen who travelled to Russia from Armenia on March 11 has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The individual has been hospitalised in the Krasnodar region. 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alina Nikoghosyan announced that they were able to identify who the infected individual had come into contact with and have confirmed that he did indeed come into contact with someone who was known to have been infected with the coronavirus.

20 Mar 2020, 17:33

Baku buses install disinfectant dispensers 

Woman disinfects her hands. Photo: Trend.

In accordance with the recommendations of the Baku Transport Agency, regular disinfectant dispensers have been installed in Baku’s buses.

20 Mar 2020, 17:32

Ruling New Azerbaijan Party transfers $118 million to coronavirus fund

Azerbaijan’s ruling New Azerbaijan Party has announced that it has allocated ₼200 million ($118 million) to a fund that supports the fight against the coronavirus. 

On 19 March Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed the 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.

The New Azerbaijan Party also recommended all local party structures and party members to donate to the fund.

20 Mar 2020, 17:08

Azerbaijani courts suspend trials due to coronavirus

The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan has adopted a decree on the measures necessary for enforcement in the courts to suppress the spread of coronavirus infections in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani courts are recommended to suspend all the trials with the exception of those which are subject to immediate consideration or not requiring judicial review.

20 Mar 2020, 17:03

Suspected Covid-19 patient escapes from Azerbaijani hospital 

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan has reported that one person suspected of being infected with the coronavirus has escaped from the hospital where he was being monitored.

The patient, reportedly a doctor by profession, has since been caught and returned to medical observation. Members of his family, as well as others with whom he has been in contact, have been placed under quarantine.

20 Mar 2020, 16:03

Georgia: No shortage of tests ‘when necessary’ 

Amiran Gamkrelidze, the Director of Georgia's National Centre for Disease Control, said in a briefing today that, so far, Georgia’s medical authorities have been able to test everyone for Covid-19, ‘when we deemed it necessary’.

Also, according to the Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze, Georgia will receive 200,000 coronavirus test kits from South Korea in the coming days.

Overnight, the number of those infected in Georgia rose to 43. The three most recent cases are members of one family who had recently travelled to the U.S. and have been in self-isolation, until being transported to Tbilisi clinic last Saturday.

Doctors hailed them for being ‘responsible’ and self-isolating, and thereby having only ‘minimal outside contact’.

In contrast, police reported today that on 19 March they had forcibly put 14 more people under quarantine after the individuals in question violated mandatory self-isolation rules. The total number of those who have violated mandatory self-isolation has gone up to 144. 

20 Mar 2020, 15:40

Armenian government orders newspapers to remove articles

Armenian investigative outlet Hetq has published an article warning of the government’s censorship of newspapers in the country.

According to Hetq, the police have demanded that newspapers Aravot and Hraparak remove articles that could ‘cause public panic’.

They write that Armenia’s state of emergency means that the government could level fines of ֏500,000–֏800,000 ($1,000–$1,600) on media outlets that violate these terms.

20 Mar 2020, 15:34

‘Volunteer Medics’ establish organisation to help elderly in Kabardino-Balkaria

In Kabardino-Balkaria, the ‘Volunteer Medics’ civic group has established an organisation for helping the elderly. The organisation is based at the Volunteer Resource Center of Kabardino-Balkaria. Its tasks include food and medicine delivery to the homes of the elderly during the coronavirus epidemic.

20 Mar 2020, 15:14

Daghestan begins mass disinfection

Makhachkala Mayor Salman Dadaev announced new measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus: from March 20, disinfection will be carried out in trolleybuses, on construction sites, in shopping centres, in markets, and in rubbish container sites.

20 Mar 2020, 14:58

Gerorgian Airways puts staff on unpaid leave

Georgia’s national carrier, Georgian Airways, has put 95% of their staff on indefinite unpaid leave, citing a financial crisis in the company. 

Caption: A Georgian Airways Boeing 737. Photo: Georgian Airways.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the privately-owned company has been operating government-supported flights to return around 2,000 Georgian nationals home.

While all flights will be halted from tomorrow, Georgian Airways said they could organise additional flights if needed.

Roman Bokeria, CEO of Georgian Airways, promised to make every effort to keep all their staff on once the crisis passes.

20 Mar 2020, 14:00

Russia to help Abkhazia with medicines

On 19 March, the Russian State Duma renewed an agreement with Abkhazia to provide medicine and medical devices to Russian citizens living in Abkhazia worth ₽50 million ($640,000).

A day earlier, Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots of the Russian State Duma, suggested Russia, as an exception, exclude non-Russian citizens living in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Donetsk People's Republic, and the Luhansk People's Republic from a ban on entry to Russia. 

The ban on non-Russian citizens entered into force on 18 March and will last at least till May. 

On 20 March, the Tbilisi-based Democracy Research Institute (DRI) said that the healthcare infrastructure in the Gali District of Abkhazia and Akhalgori District of South Ossetia, both predominantly populated by ethnic Georgians, were especially vulnerable to a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Both Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities have appealed to Russia for aid in dealing with the virus, and closed their borders with Georgian controlled territory.

[Read more: Abkhazia and South Ossetia scramble to prepare for coronavirus]

 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.

20 Mar 2020, 13:32

Karachay-Circassia implements restrictions on mosques

The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Karachay-Circassia decided to temporarily restrict the work of mosques in the republic.

Free access to mosques during the day is limited, the duration of Friday prayers has been decreased, and older parishioners and people with weakened immune systems are advised not to go to mosques. 

Worshippers are also encouraged to pray at home and avoid shaking hands and hugs. Restrictions apply from 20 March to 20 April.

20 Mar 2020, 12:50

All flights cancelled in Georgia

Photo: OC Media.

Georgia completely halts flights except those conducted by Georgian Airways that are organised through an agreement with the Georgian government in order to evacuate Georgian citizens from abroad. 

According to Irakli Chikovani, advisor of the Prime Minister, Every person, who will arrive in Georgia, no matter from where, will be moved into quarantine. Extra quarantine spaces will be created at the checkpoints of Larsi, with Russia; Red Bridge, with Azerbaijan; and Sarpi, with Turkey.

20 Mar 2020, 12:36

Kabardino-Balkaria to provide home services for older people

Employees of the multifunctional centers for payment of utility bills and financial operations for the population (MFC) of Kabardino-Balkaria will provide services to residents over 60 years old at home at their request, the press service of the MFC of Kabardino-Balkaria reports.

They also report that for staff that interacts with a large number of visitors, special training was conducted and masks and gloves were purchased.

Citizens are also encouraged to use the electronic services of state and municipal services and pre-registration in an electronic queue to prevent crowding.

20 Mar 2020, 11:44

North Ossetia investigating the possibility of mask production

The head of North Ossetia, Vyacheslav Bitarov, instructed the Ministry of Industry and Transport of the republic to study the possibilities of organising the production of medical masks in Vladikavkaz as soon as possible, TASS reports.

Currently, in North Ossetia, 75 people who have returned from abroad are in self-isolation. They are in the process of being tested for the coronavirus. There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the republic. By the decree of the head of North Ossetia, the republic is under a state of high-alert.

20 Mar 2020, 11:35

Georgian Muslims’ department halts collective prayer in Georgian mosques

Friday prayer in Batumi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgia's Muslims' Department has decided to halt collective prayers, including Friday prayers in all Georgian mosques, indefinitely. Mosques will remain open for those wishing to pray there individually. 


20 Mar 2020, 11:27

Armenia establishes treasury account to support efforts to combat the coronavirus

Armenia’s Ministry of Finance has created a treasury account to help efforts aimed at preventing the spread and mitigating the damage of the virus in the country. Donated funds will be used for bonuses for medical staff, medical supplies and equipment, food and other essentials for high-risk groups, improvement of medical facilities, and transportation.

As of March 19, approximately ֏ 121 million ($246,000) has been transferred to the treasury account.

Speaker of the National Assembly Ararat Mirzoyan has announced that the monthly bonuses parliamentarians were to receive for the month of March will be transferred to the treasury account. A number of parliamentarians have already made individual contributions to the account. 

If you wish to make a donation, you can make a transfer to the following account:

Treasury Account Number: 900005001947

Recipient: Central Treasury of the Republic of Armenia

When making a donation, indicate your purpose as the following: ‘Support for the fight against coronavirus disease.’ You can also note what cause you would like your donation to be directed to (e.g. medical supplies and equipment).

20 Mar 2020, 11:23

Georgia confirms three more cases

Today, Georgia confirmed three more cases, bringing the total number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus to 43. One had since recovered.  Four of the infected are minors. According to health officials, 1,575 people are in quarantine and 275 are in hospitals under supervision.

Georgian health officials say they are expecting a rise in the number of infections this month.

20 Mar 2020, 11:06

Armenia confirms 14 more cases

Disinfecting the Yerevan metro. Photo via Yerevan.am

According to the Armenian Unified Infocenter, as of 10:00 a.m. today, a total of 136 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Armenia. Only one has recovered.

20 Mar 2020, 11:00

Azerbaijani President allocates $590 million to mitigate economic impact of Covid-19

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on a number of measures to reduce the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the unrest in the global energy and equity markets on the Azerbaijani economy. 

According to the decree, in order to finance these measures ₼1 billion ($590 million) was allocated from the state budget of Azerbaijan to the Cabinet of Ministers.

20 Mar 2020, 10:57

Azerbaijan confirms 10 more cases

According to the Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers, the infected individuals had recently visited Iran, France, Germany, and Turkey. 

A total of 44 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Azerbaijan. According to the authorities, 10 have recovered, and there has been one death. Thirty-three people remain ill with the virus.

20 Mar 2020, 09:00


Welcome to OC Media’s coronavirus live updates for Friday, 20 March. We will be bringing you the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic around the Caucasus.

The biggest developments from yesterday:

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

Many of the stalls are closed. Photo: Dominik K Cagara/OC Media.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said there was no need to announce a state of emergency yet.

Armenia announced a state business assistance programme worth $260 million to help the economy develop and increase its competitiveness in a post-crisis situation.

Azerbaijan started to turn back vehicles trying to enter Baku and the neighbouring area, enforcing a ban on people from the regions coming to the capital.

The North Caucasus republics continued to go on  ‘high alert’, with measures including banning public events and closing educational institutions.

Read more from yesterday as well as the latest stories:




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