Coronavirus live updates | Georgia’s curfew begins

31 March 2020
Empty highways on either side of the Mtkvari River at 20:55. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

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31 Mar 2020, 21:08

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

31 Mar 2020, 21:00

Georgia’s curfew begins

The first night of Georgia’s country-wide curfew begins. From 21:00 until 06:00 it is prohibited to venture outside, whether by foot or by vehicle.

Empty highways on either side of the Mtkvari River at 20:55. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

Read more: Georgia introduces curfew

31 Mar 2020, 20:52

Curfew hours in Abkhazia’s Gali District extended

The curfew from midnight to 06:00 introduced last Saturday in the Gali (Gal) District of Abkhazia has been extended today to from 20:00–07:00.

In a decree, Acting President Valeriy Bganba ordered the government to pursue those outside their homes during the curfew. 

Two children with high temperatures, accompanied by their father, were transferred today from the village of Saberio in Gali to Zugdidi hospital for testing and treatment. 

A 53-year-old woman who was transported from the same location to Zugdidi on 29 March tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Radio Tavisupleba, RFE/RL’s Georgian service, cited a source in Gali District as saying that the woman had come into contact with at least 30 people in the region after returning to Saberio from Moscow through Sochi. 

Abhkhazian authorities said they have traced back her movement since entering Abkhazia and disinfected the locations, put Saberio village under lockdown and have put all those she came in contact in quarantine.

31 Mar 2020, 20:13

Armenia’s parliament passes controversial bill hours after voting against it

In a last-minute ‘special session’, Armenia’s parliament passed a bill on gathering personal data which it had voted against only several hours prior. 

The bill, which encompasses amendments to the Law on the State of Emergency and the Law on Electronic Communication will give the state power to gather information on where, when and by whom citizens receive communication services. 

Confidential medical information will also be stored in the same database. However, the content of messages and phone conversation will not be stored. 

The bill will be in force for the duration of the state of emergency and will help the authorities properly identify those a coronavirus patient comes into contact with.

Opposition faction Bright Armenia, which was not present for the vote, announced that they were not informed of the session. 

However, ruling My Step MP Ruben Rubinyan claimed that they were all informed five minutes before the session was to begin and it was done in haste, taking into consideration the threat of the spread of the virus in the country.

31 Mar 2020, 18:52

Azerbaijan closes air and rail links with Russia

The Azerbaijani Government has announced that flights and railway links with Russia are closed from today. 

The River Samur land crossing will continue to operate for the mutual repatriation of citizens. 

31 Mar 2020, 18:51

Karachay-Cherkessia switches to self-isolation

The Head of Karachay-Cherkessia, Rashid Temrezov, has issued a decree ordering residents not to leave their homes.

The self-isolation regime allows people to leave home only to seek emergency medical care, for walking pets, for taking out rubbish, to go to and from work and purchase food at the nearest shop.

According to the decree, people must stay at least 1.5 metres from each other in public.

Public transport between districts was suspended today except for taxi services.

31 Mar 2020, 18:04

Armenia’s parliament votes against bill on gathering personal data

Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly, has voted against amendments to the law on the State of Emergency and the Law on Electronic Communication proposed by the Ministry of Justice. 

The bill would have allowed certain infringements on personal data protection and privacy rights during the state of emergency, including gathering information about the location of citizens receiving communication services, the phone numbers of those who were in direct or indirect contact with a person, as well as information about the date, start, and end of that communication. 

Confidential medical information would also have been stored in the same database. The content of messages or phone conversations, however, were not to be stored under the amendments.

The Justice Ministry justified the bill claiming it would have allowed the authorities to properly identify people a coronavirus patient came into contact with.

The bill was criticised by the two opposition factions in parliament — Bright Armenia and Prosperous Armenia — and by several members of the ruling My Step faction. 

Opposition factions boycotted the vote while only 65 MPs from the ruling My Step faction voted in favour of the bill, which resulted in it not passing.

PM Nikol Pashinyan has vowed that the government will reintroduce the bill.

31 Mar 2020, 17:57

Armenia’s restrictions on freedom of movement extended for another 10 days

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that the government has extended stricter measures on restrictions on movement which were enforced last week for another ten days. 

Pashinyan also stated that 424 of the 532 confirmed cases in Armenia show no symptoms, only 90 have pneumonia, 30 of whom are in critical condition, he said.

31 Mar 2020, 17:56

North Caucasus limits public transport

Several regions of the North Caucasus have dramatically cut down public transport.

In Maykop, the capital of Adygea, public transport will be reduced by half and trolleybuses will suspend operation until further notice. A complete self-isolation regime has also been introduced in the Adygea, Regnum reports.

Regnum also reported that the airport in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, has reduced the number of flights to and from the republic to 1 per day, to Moscow.

TASS reports that Kabardino-Balkaria has reduced the frequency of buses between settlements by 50%-70%, mostly running in the mornings and evenings.

In Karachay-Cherkessia, transport between districts has been suspended from today.

31 Mar 2020, 17:45

Azerbaijan places opposition activist in psychiatric hospital

Azerbaijan has placed opposition activist Agil Humbatov in a psychiatric hospital for ‘spreading disinformation’ about COVID-19 on social media, newspaper Azadliq Qazeti reports

Humbatov, a member of the opposition Popular Front Party, is known for his harsh criticism of the government online. 

Agil Humbatov scavenging materials to be recycled at a landfill. Humbatov has consistently criticised President Ilham Aliyev for not supporting poorer people. Photo: Agil Humbatov.

Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry told Trend today that as well as institutionalising  Agil Humbatov, they had warned one other person for spreading disinformation.

The ministry also said that from 30 March-31 March, 333 people were fined for trying to cross police checkpoints at the entrances to cities and districts. 

They said that 36 public eateries had been fined for staying open. 

31 Mar 2020, 17:35

Sochi disinfects streets

The Sochi administration has announced that the city has begun disinfecting the streets, public transport stops, pavements, underpasses, benches, parks, squares, and embankments, Regnum reports.

Starting from 18:00, a ‘regime of complete self-isolation’ will be introduced, which will be controlled by police patrols.

31 Mar 2020, 17:26

Armenia to receive new medical supplies

The Armenian Unified Infocenter has confirmed that in the following days Armenia will receive 100 ventilators, 60,000 tests, and other medical supplies including masks, personal protective equipment, goggles, etc.

31 Mar 2020, 17:26

Baku closes metro

The Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers has announced that the Baku metro will stop working from 22:00 today until 20 April. 

Passenger traffic in Baku will be carried out by express buses and regular bus routes. Intervals between buses will be regulated depending on the passenger flow, the government said.

31 Mar 2020, 17:24

Russia criminalises quarantine violations and fake news 

The Russian State Duma has adopted amendments to beef up punishments for violating ‘sanitary and epidemiological rules’ with fines of up to ₽1 million ($13,000) or imprisonment of up to 3 years. 

For premeditated contamination of others and/or a fatal outcome of a quarantine violation, fines go as high as ₽2 million ($26,000) or up to five years in prison.

The lower house of Russia’s parliament also introduced a punishment for spreading misinformation related to emergency situations, including epidemy, with fines of ₽300,000-₽700,000 ($3,800-$8,900) or three years in prison.

The amendments package is expected to be quickly approved in the Russian senate, the Federation Council and confirmed with President Vladimir Putin’s signature.

31 Mar 2020, 17:22

Ingushetia goes into self-isolation

Ingushetia introduced a self-isolation regime yesterday for all residents, according to the Instagram page of the republic’s Interior Ministry. ⠀

‘Do not leave your homes without an urgent need to seek emergency medical care, trips to work, purchases in shops or pharmacies’, the message said.

It also states that penalties will be applied to violators of the regime.

In addition, patrols are warning residents of the rules through loudspeakers.

31 Mar 2020, 16:20

Azerbaijan to use drones for disinfection

Azerbaijan’s Academy of Sciences announced on Tuesday that drones will be used for disinfection.

Photo: Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan’.

The Agrodrone, which was created by a resident at the Park of Science and Technology at the ANAS High Technologies Park, to spray pesticides on agricultural land, has been adapted for disinfection against COVID-19.

31 Mar 2020, 15:50

Elections kick off in Nagorno-Karabakh despite virus threat

Elections are underway in Nagorno-Karabakh, the first combined presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Photo: Hetq.

The authorities decided to go ahead with the elections despite some calls to postpone them.

Despite Nagorno-Karabakh having no confirmed cases of the virus, Armenia, with which Nagorno-Karabakh shares its only open border, has 482 confirmed cases.

Strict measures have been implemented, including shutting the border with Armenia except for local residents and election observers and closing down schools. Candidates also cancelled in-person campaign programmes for several days leading up to the elections.

At 09:00, 282 polling stations opened for 103,663 eligible voters. Polls will close at 20:00. 

As of 11:00 turnout was 24.9%.

According to the Central Electoral Committee, all polling stations have been disinfected and antimicrobial disinfectants will be provided. Almost 80,000 masks and pairs of gloves will be distributed to voters. 

Voters can enter polling stations three at a time and will also be given their own pens to cast their votes.

There are 14 candidates running for president and 10 political parties running for the 33 seats in the National Assembly.

Read the background to the elections: Nagorno-Karabakh prepares for unprecedented elections

 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.

31 Mar 2020, 15:40

Azerbaijan to allocate additional $880 million to relief fund

Azerbaijani Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov has told state television station AzTV that the government plans to allocate an additional ₼1.5 billion ($880 million) to support businesses and individuals affected by quarantine measures.

This ‘broader economic support programme’ adds to the ₼1 billion ($600 million) already committed by the government, bringing the fund up to ₼2.5 billion ($1.5 billion) — 3% of Azerbaijan’s GDP

Jabbarov said the funds would be split into nine support programmes.

The first would target 20 areas of the economy hardest hit. In 11 of these, which include public eateries and tourism, the government will cover 100% of the salaries of employees. In the other nine, the state will pay 50% of salaries.

The second programme will cover micro businesses, which will receive state assistance equivalent to their tax payments for 2019.

The 3–7 programmes will cover tax breaks for businesses, support to mortgage borrowers, support for passenger transportation companies,  support in paying utilities, and other social issues.

The eighth programme, for which ₼1 billion ($600 million) has been allocated, will support businesses to pay their loans. 

‘We plan to repay, at the expense of the state, the interest on loans (taken before 9 March) for businesses, the rate on which is up to 10% per annum. In this case, one of the main conditions is that the entrepreneur must be an exemplary payer of the loan (that is, his credit history is important)’, he said.

The ninth programme will provide state support for loans and a state guarantees of up to 60% of the loan amount, as well as interest payments up to a certain limit. 

‘In the coming days, the final design of all these nine programmes will be discussed with the public and private sectors’, Jabbarov concluded.

31 Mar 2020, 15:36

Kabardino-Balkaria goes on lockdown

The head of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kazbek Kokov, has announced on Instagram the ‘complete self-isolation’ of the republic. He explained that ‘today our goal is to continue to be proactive and to take the necessary measures in advance’.

Starting from today, people will be banned from leaving their homes except to receive medical care, purchase food or medicine, go to work, remove rubbish, and walk pets 100 meters from the house.

People are required to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other in public places except in public transport and taxis.

31 Mar 2020, 15:10

Azerbaijan urges people to remain at home

The Azerbaijani Government announced additional measures yesterday asking people to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, seek urgent medical care, or go to work. 

The measures will start today and end on 20 April. 

Many organisations and businesses have been ordered to close, including restaurants, shops, sports and leisure facilities, cleaning services, cultural venues like museums and exhibitions, and teaching establishments, including teaching in individual clients’ homes.

Funeral services have also been ordered to close except for burials.

The government has created a list of exceptions to the closures for businesses and organisations carrying out essential tasks. 

These include certain government agencies, health and social services, infrastructure services, transport and logistics services, financial organisations, delivery and repair services, utilities, and more.

Pharmacies, grocery stores, and food wholesalers will also remain open, as will mass media organisations.

Factories will also continue to operate.

According to the announcement, the list of organisations allowed to operate will continue to be updated.

31 Mar 2020, 14:42

Georgia puts checkpoints at borders of Telavi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities

The Georgian government is creating checkpoints at the borders of Telavi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities, adding them to 6 other municipalities and the city of Tbilisi that are under tight control. 

The measures being carried out at checkpoints include thermal screening, government spokesperson Irakli Chikovani has said.

According to Paata Imnadze, Deputy Head of the National Centre for Disease Control, they have not yet identified the source of infection of two recently confirmed cases. 

31 Mar 2020, 14:23

Armenia’s cases rise to 532

Armenia’s Health Ministry has confirmed that the number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen by 50 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 532. 

Of the 50 new cases, 23 were already in quarantine; 24 had been in contact with a confirmed case. The contact circle of the remaining three cases are being identified. To date, there 30 people have recovered and three have died due to COVID-19.

31 Mar 2020, 13:13

Georgia closes currency exchange offices 

Georgia has closed all currency exchange offices nationwide.

A currency exchange in Tbilisi. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The National Bank underlined that banks and microfinance organisations would continue operating as normal. 

The central bank also urged people to use online payments and transactions instead of cash in order to ‘fight the virus more effectively’. 

Health authorities earlier warned that cash was a major vector of coronavirus infection.

31 Mar 2020, 12:21

Daghestan closes shops and restaurants

Daghestan has closed all non-essential places of business, including shopping centres, markets, clubs, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and more.

Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open.

The government said that the police and National Guard would monitor compliance to identify those who evade the new rules. Violations can be reported to the number: 8 (800) 350-00-63.

Molodyozh Daghestana reports that the Mufti of the region, Akhmad Afandi Abdulayev, announced that Friday prayers in mosques would continue in Daghestan. 

Those attending would be obliged to wear masks, bring their own rugs, and observe a distance of 1.5 meters between worshipers.

As for today, there are 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the republic.

31 Mar 2020, 11:26

Kabardino-Balkaria opens coronavirus ward

The head of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kazbek Kokov, has inspected the readiness of the new coronavirus ward at the 1st City Hospital of Nalchik. 

Kokov said on Instagram that the ward was equipped with 230 beds and 18 ventilators.

He said that more than 100 additional beds for patients with COVID-19 would be created at Prokhladny City Hospital in the north of the republic.

31 Mar 2020, 11:03

Patient transported from Abkhazia diagnosed with coronavirus

A woman who was transported from Abkhazia to Zugdidi by ambulance has been diagnosed with coronavirus. 

The authorities said the woman was ‘around 50 years old’.

According to Aleksandre Motserelia, the Governor of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region, which borders Abkhazia, the woman is the second person with a confirmed coronavirus infection in Zugdidi.

‘She is our citizen, who flew from Moscow to Adler [a district of Sochi] and drove to the village of Saberio [in Abkhazia’s eastern Gali District]’, said Motserelia.

‘From there, she was transported [to Zugdidi] by our emergency services. She is currently being treated in Zugdidi hospital.’ 

Georgia has diagnosed 108 people with coronavirus; 21 have already recovered. There are currently 4,995 people in quarantine and 278 are under observation in hospital.

31 Mar 2020, 09:30

Summary

Welcome to OC Media’s coronavirus live updates for Saturday, 31 March. We will be bringing you the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the Caucasus.

The biggest developments from yesterday:

Georgia has declared a country-wide curfew. From 8:00 on 31 March, it is prohibited for anyone to be outside of their homes from 21:00-06:00. Anyone venturing outside must always carry identification documents. All public transit is shut down. 

For a more detailed look at the new curfew rules and other restrictions read more on OC Media:  Georgia introduces curfew.

In Azerbaijan, Interior Ministry troops are taking part in patrolling the streets of Baku and Sumgait.

In Armenia, the government has approved three new economic assistance packages targeting various groups affected by the spread of the virus, including unemployed workers and pregnant women in ‘hardship. 

A universal isolation regime has been introduced in Adygea. All residents of Adygea should not leave their place of residence, except when there is an urgent need for medical care, medicines, food, or to get their place of employment.

Read more from yesterday as well as the latest stories:

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