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Coronavirus live updates | Georgia's public transport to operate starting Friday

28 May 2020
Buses parked in the depot in Tbilisi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

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28 May 2020, 20:14

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

28 May 2020, 20:03

Abkhazia to remain closed until mid-June

The Abkhazian government has extended anti-coronavirus measures until 15 June, including a ban on mass public events, tourism, recreational facilities, and limitations on entry to Abkhazia except for diplomats, Russian military personnel, and freight drivers. 

Abkhazian Prime Minister Aleksandr Ankvab chairing a meeting of the anti-coronavirus taskforce on 28 May. Official picture.

Earlier this month, the government gradually eased some restrictions by reopening agricultural markets, inter-city public transport, and food establishments, provided they don’t host large parties.

According to the local authorities, those recognised as Abkhazian citizens will still be allowed to return home but mandated 14-days quarantine will remain in place. 

Many of the recent returnees to Abkhazia, including at least 230 young people, have been students in Russian military schools who were placed under quarantine in the Aytar hotel in Sukhumi (Sukhum). Twenty of the students were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, with 8 still in treatment. 

As of today, there are 12 confirmed active cases in the region.

 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.

28 May 2020, 18:57

Report: 5G corona-conspiracy theories ‘actively circulated’ in Georgia

According to the Tbilisi-based watchdog group the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), conspiracy theories linking the novel coronavirus pandemic with fifth-generation cellular technology are being ‘actively circulated’ by several Georgian online news outlets — especially through Facebook. 

IDFI noted that two outlets among those spreading the conspiracy theories had been previously circulating disinformation coming from Russian state-run media. 

IDFI reported that the conspiracy theories spread in Georgia vary in their messages, which include assertions that 5G technology causes diseases and that anti-pandemic government efforts were ‘tools for mass control’, including for installing 5G masts throughout the country.

Besides online outlets, IDFI highlighted two groups on Facebook, one with 6,000 members and another with 21,000, that were dedicated to stopping 5G technology from being installed in Georgia. They also pointed to an online petition with 6,000 signatures demanding the government ‘stop implementing 5G technology in Georgia!’

The World Health Organisation has refuted any connection between COVID-19 and 5G.

28 May 2020, 17:56

Armenia reports record 15 deaths within a day

The Armenian government reported this morning a record 15 COVID-19 deaths within 24 hours. 

According to official numbers, 157 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died so far.

The number of confirmed cases surpassed 8,000 today, with 442 new cases since yesterday morning.

Armenia relaxed a number of restrictions 10 days ago however the daily numbers of new cases have shown no improvement. 

Yesterday, PM Nikol Pashinyan described the epidemiological situation as ‘in essence, a second wave’ but didn’t voice intention to reinstitute restrictions on public life, including economic activities.

28 May 2020, 16:03

Armenian COVID-19 ‘fake news’ site was funded by US

US taxpayer money has funded a controversial health news website in Armenia that is spreading ‘incredibly dangerous’ COVID-19 misinformation, an investigation by openDemocracy has revealed. 

Medmedia.am was created in 2019 after a grant was awarded to the Armenian Association of Young Doctors (AAYD), a local NGO, by the US Embassy’s Democracy Commission Small Grants programme. The website is a news and content portal that often republishes Facebook posts. 

A number of these posts repurposed as supposed news articles feature conspiracy theories and other falsehoods about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The site’s most-read piece, with over 100,000 views, calls on Armenians to ‘refuse all potential [COVID-19] vaccination programmes’, while another falsely claimed that a morgue offered a ֏100,000 ($200) bribe to the relatives of a deceased patient so they would claim that the death was the result of COVID-19. 

Read more: Armenian COVID-19 ‘fake news’ site was funded by US.

28 May 2020, 13:18

Georgian government to subsidise 4% of mortgage repayments for loans taken out this year

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has announced a 4% subsidy for mortgage repayments on loans taken out this year.

The PM said the programme was aimed at boosting the construction sector.

‘This will create a real demand on the construction market. For the next five years, we will stand by every citizen who decides to improve their living conditions’, said the PM. 

He added that 120,000 people are directly employed in the construction sector and just as many indirectly.

‘For the last two years, 2019–2020, 25,000 loans were taken for construction projects which are still unfinished. We can’t abandon either these people or the construction companies’, said Gakharia. 

Additionally, he said, the government would allocate ₾150 million ($47 million) by the end of the year to provide housing for 1,800 IDP families. 

‘This means that approximately 6,000 people will receive flats three years earlier [than planned]’, said Gakharia.

28 May 2020, 09:30

Summary

Welcome to OC Media’s coronavirus live updates for Thursday, 28 May. We will be bringing you the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the Caucasus.

The biggest developments from yesterday

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced that public transport will start operating again on 29 May. It had been shut down since 31 March.

He added that wearing protective face masks on public transport will be obligatory. The government plans to restore inter-city connections on 8 June. 

The Telegram channel and Vkontakte account of Chechnya Head Ramzan Kadyrov and state-run local media published photos of Kadyrov chairing the anti-coronavirus task force in Grozny. The posts follow days of speculation in Russian media about Kadyrov’s health and the possibility of him having been infected with COVID-19 and hospitalised in one of the hospitals in Moscow. Since 21 May, local government-run agencies have used only old footage while mentioning Kadyrov.

According to Armenia’s Inspection Bodies’ Coordination Bureau, during the past week 87 restaurants were shut down and an additional 12 will most likely close today due to violations of new health and hygiene regulations. An additional 290 businesses were prohibited for operating 24 hours in order to address health violations.

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