Last updated: April 26
WHO role in Tajikistan’s coronavirus-free narrative under scrutiny
The WHO is refusing to answer questions while it appears to support the government’s increasingly dubious claims.
Coronavirus changes not just life, but also death in Georgia
The pandemic has profoundly changed funeral culture in Georgia. Death is a very elaborate matter here.
Kyrgyzstan law enforcement abusing coronavirus restrictions, activists say
Some of the restrictions are creating public health hazards.
Coronavirus quiets fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan
Armed forces on both sides appear not to have made many concessions to the need to social distance, but diplomats have held their first videoconference as part of the ongoing peace negotiations.
Tajikistan: Four more deaths pinned on pneumonia
Officials sticking to insistence it has registered no cases of coronavirus.
Uzbekistan: President nixes helicopter money idea, appeals to business community
Mirziyoyev says businessmen can pay money to people themselves.
Perspectives | Azerbaijan’s exchange-rate fix
The currency’s hard peg to the dollar could compound the economic cost of the crisis in Baku.
Kazakhstan: Government steps up hunt for critics
Authorities have under the cover of the coronavirus crisis arrested a number of government critics.
Tajikistan says it has no COVID-19, attributes new death to swine flu
The latest victim of something authorities insist was not COVID-19 was buried by medical personnel in protective gear.
After controversial Easter, Georgia braces for COVID-19 spike
The Church’s reluctance to cancel Easter services and recognize the state of emergency continues to drive controversy.
Coronavirus leaves Tajikistan’s labor migrants high and dry
Those who made it to Russia before the scale of the crisis became evident are now stranded.
- Nationwide state of emergency.
- Most businesses and schools remain closed.
- Some checkpoints were dismantled on April 23, though the state of emergency continues and the government is asking Armenians to stay at home. The health minister said that “there is no reason to relax,” epress.am reported.
- The Football Federation of Armenia will resume training on April 23, after all teams receive supplies of COVID-19 tests, public radio reported on April 20.
- The armed forces will no longer disclose the number of infected soldiers or soldiers in self-isolation, OC Media reported on April 13.
- A planeload of medical supplies from China arrived in Yerevan on April 8, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said. Some of the goods were gifts and some were purchased by the Armenian government. Boxes were stamped with the phrase, “May our friendship higher than Mountain Ararat and higher than Yangtze River.”
- A Russian military team with a mobile laboratory arrived in Yerevan on April 7 to support the government’s testing efforts, Tert.am reported.
The government has spent over $90 million on the crisis so far, Armenian public radio reported on April 24.
Armenia's finance minister said on April 23 that he expects the economy to contract by 2 percent this year, compared to earlier predictions of 4.9 percent growth. The resulting decline in tax revenues will require the government to borrow an additional $500 million, he said.
Gazprom Armenia, a subsidiary of the Russian state energy firm, announced on April 22 that it would begin cutting off gas for residents who do not pay their bills within three days. Earlier in April Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce the price Armenia pays for Russian gas, to reflect falling prices on international markets.
Former Economy Minister Vahram Avanesyan told Civilnet on April 15 that Armenia may lose 15 percent of GDP during the coronavirus crisis and compared the effect on trade links to the collapse of the USSR.
- Schools and most stores closed. Traffic between regions banned; parks closed.
- Azerbaijan will allow some stores to reopen on April 27, the government said on April 24. People will still need to text their intentions to the police department.
- Azerbaijan is abusing coronavirus-related restrictions to silence its critics, Human Rights Watch said on April 16.
- State media headline on April 23: "Letters to the president: Your decisive steps clearly demonstrate your attention and care for our people."
- As of April 5, anyone wishing to leave home must first notify the police. People 65 and older are prohibited from leaving their homes unless they are healthcare workers.
- In the first month after the lockdown was introduced, police fined 56,871 people, the Interior Ministry announced on April 17.
- Some 300 health workers have been infected with COVID-19, making about 19 percent of registered cases, authorities said on April 24.
- The Interior Ministry said several police officers have contracted COVID-19, but did not release specific figures, Turan reported on April 21.
- “Thanks to the measures taken in Azerbaijan, the sanitary-epidemiological situation in connection with the coronavirus is under control,” said presidential advisor Hikmet Haiyev on April 16, Haqqin reported.
- The first cases of COVID-19 were reported April 6 in the isolated exclave of Nakhchivan. Eighteen people were said to be infected and 2,896 quarantined.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection denied there are hiccups in the government's distribution system for unemployment payments, Trend reported on April 23.
Fitch Ratings revised its outlook for Azerbaijan from stable to negative on April 10, three months ahead of the next scheduled review. Fitch specifically criticized Baku’s insistence on defending the manat: “The authorities' persistent defense of the 1.7 AZN/USD exchange rate despite a 32% fall in Brent oil prices since end-February is proving costly and appears unsustainable if external pressures fail to ease.”
A few days later, the president warned that "internal and external enemies of Azerbaijan" are sowing panic about the manat and that the currency is not under threat of devaluation, Haqqin reported.
The government is considering tax relief for businesses, Trend reported on April 22. Independent news website Caucasian Knot canvased economists and small business owners on April 10 and concluded that Baku's economic stimulus offerings are not reaching large segments of the population.
- State of emergency. Schools, most shops and open-air markets closed. There has been a nightly curfew since March 30. Gatherings of more than three people are banned.
- Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia unveiled an anti-crisis plan on April 24 that would ease some restrictions, allowing markets to reopen, deliveries to resume and taxis to begin operating again on April 27. Roughly two weeks later, he said, construction will be allowed to resume. Perhaps two weeks after that, stores will reopen. Only at a fourth stage, after another interval of two weeks according to this plan, will restaurants and malls be allowed to resume operations.
- The government extended a ban on private vehicles until April 27, Ekho Kavkaza reported on April 21. Farmers are exempt for several hours per day. The ban initially appeared to be an effort to depress Easter turnout on April 19 (see below), though the Church unilaterally declared that it did not apply to clergy and those serving the church. Face masks are also now mandatory.
- Prime Minister Gakharia banned movement into and out of Georgia’s largest cities -- Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi -- effective April 15 for 10 days.
- The government on April 17 closed all cemeteries except for burials. Georgians often visit the dead after Easter.
- The government has helped 7,068 Georgian citizens return home since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Interpress reported on April 21.
- Zurab Japaridze, the leader of the libertarian Girchi party, was detained on April 23 for holding a protest rally against the state of emergency. OC Media reported the rally attracted a few dozen people. Japaridze faces a 3,000 lari fine (roughly $940).
Up to 20 medics and several police officers have tested positive, the health minister said on April 23.
A man set fire to the Mikheil Saakashvili Presidential Library on Easter Sunday, claiming in a Facebook live broadcast of the arson that the library was the source of COVID-19 in Georgia, Ekho Kavkaza reported on April 20.
- Easter services in some parishes were well attended on April 19, despite government entreaties to stay home. The Georgian Church continues to refuse to stop sharing communion spoons, earning rebuke from many Georgians fearful the sacrament could spread the virus. During his Easter mass, the patriarch said that rejecting communion is akin to rejecting Christ.
- “Receiving communion from a common spoon carries the risk of spreading the infection and does not require any special scientific research, Tengiz Tsertsvadze, director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, told reporters on April 23, days after Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze said she wasn't sure if communion spoons could transmit the disease.
- A number of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Church.
The government will spend 3.5 billion lari, or roughly $1.1 billion, on crisis mitigation, the prime minister said on April 24.
Farmers in Marneuli, which the government considers a COVID-19 hotspot and which it has quarantined since March 23, have taken to the streets to protest their inability to sell their produce, OC Media reported on April 22, blocking the highway and demanding government support.
Exports in the first quarter fell almost 6 percent year-on-year, Interpress reported on April 21.
- Abkhazia: The region lifted some restrictions on April 20, reopening markets and ending a curfew in two regions. The de facto government declared a state of emergency on March 27 and stopped public transportation. It banned tourists, the mainstay of the economy, and closed most businesses.
- The Russian military has deployed a field hospital at one of its bases in Abkhazia, Abkhaz Inform reported on April 9. More Russian troops were being transferred from Crimea to Abkhazia to “help combat the novel coronavirus,” Interfax reported on April 17.
- The de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh declared a state of emergency on April 12, Hetq.am reported. Eight cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the region.
- The OSCE paused its monitoring mission on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontlines. (March 18)
- South Ossetia, Georgia's other breakaway region, closed its border with Russia on April 5, including for freight, sealing the contested territory off from the world. On April 10, the closure was extended to May 1. The Moscow-backed statelet has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19. Georgia’s Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, on April 1 expressed readiness to help the two regions confront the pandemic. On April 15, she condemned South Ossetia’s refusal to allow residents to receive free medical care on Georgian-controlled territory, noting that deaths are needlessly occurring in the closed region, Ekho Kavkaza reported.
- State of emergency, borders closed. Schools closed.
- Two police officers in western Kazakhstan were fired after it was found that they were offering protection, in return for payment, to a local brothel during the ongoing state of emergency, KazTAG new agency reported on April 23.
- Almost all businesses in Kazakhstan's largest cities have been forced to close. People are not allowed outdoors other than to buy groceries and medicine or to go to work.
- During a visit to a new infections diseases hospital on April 23, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said his government had not done enough to protect health workers. About 29 percent of the country's registered infections are among medics.
- Kazakhstan has distributed 3.4 billion tenge ($7.9 million) in extra payments to over 17,000 medical workers, Tengrinews reported on April 23.
- The Health Ministry said it would urgently retrain some 300 medical students and recertify 9,000 healthcare workers to address the pandemic, Tengrinews reported on April 23.
- Tokayev wrote on Twitter on April 19 that although it is encouraging that the rate of increase of coronavirus has attenuated, the peak has yet to arrive. He urged the public to continue abiding by the lockdown regime.
The central bank announced on April 21 that it would begin limiting cash withdrawals for companies on June 1, Reuters reported.
Over 4 million people have received welfare payments from the government as compensation for losses of earnings during the coronavirus crisis, Tengrinews reported on April 23. Almost half of applicants have been denied.
The government on April 15 released a list of enterprises that may resume operations from April 20 as the country seeks ways out of its state of emergency. The list varies from city to city and includes companies involved in industry and construction, car dealerships, notaries, and banks (albeit with reduced staff). In Nur-Sultan, food takeaway and delivery establishments will be permitted to stay open until 10 p.m.
- State of emergency, schools closed. Nightly curfew in the largest cities.
- It is illegal to gather in groups of more than three people in the capital, Bishkek. People are allowed out of their homes to shop for food so long as the store is within 1.5 kilometers. Pets may be taken no further than 100 meters of their owners’ home.
- A resident of Osh has been charged with ignoring quarantine orders when he returned from Russia and thus infecting family members, police said on April 21. Kyrgyz investigators have filed charges against three people for infecting others; they face up to five years in prison.
- The government on April 20 threatened to seize bicycles from Bishkek residents out during the state of emergency. This would likely violate the constitution.
- Reports of domestic violence are up 62 percent year-on-year, the Bishkek Commandant Almazbek Orozaliev said on April 24.
- One in four cases of COVID-19 has been found in healthcare workers. On April 22, the government said it would place healthcare workers in hotels to minimize the risk they could infect their families.
- Authorities said on April 22 that 12 police officers have contracted COVID-19; one is in intensive care. Activists say police officers have not been issued proper protective equipment.
- The Ministry of Health on April 18 blamed hospitals for delaying bonus payments to doctors by failing to submit documentation on time and including doctors who do not work on the COVID-19 response.
- Doctors have arrived from China on April 20 and Poland on April 19 to share their experience battling COVID-19, the Health Ministry announced.
- Kyrgyzstan's chief Muslim cleric called on believers April 16 not to observe public worship or iftar meals during Ramadan, which starts next week.
- Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev said on April 14 that half of Kyrgyzstan’s ventilators are not working (365 of 649 work).
The UN World Food Program has received almost $200,000 from Switzerland to provide food aid to 22 social institutions (orphanages, nursing homes and the like) across Kyrgyzstan, AKIpress reported on April 24.
Preschool teachers of the Kyrgyz language say cutbacks have made their wages impossible to live on. A group from a district near Bishkek complained to the Education Ministry that their salaries were cut by 50 percent at the start of lockdown, to between 1,400 and 4,300 som per month ($17.40 and $53.50), Kloop.kg reported on April 22.
The national energy holding company said on April 20 that due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the economic impact of commercial subscribers not paying, repair work and preparations for the upcoming heating season may not be completed on time.
Citing the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the OECD estimated in an April 15 report that 1.8 million workers of 2.6 million in the formal labor force are now unemployed. Informal unemployment is already high.
Kyrgyzstan’s president asked his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on April 14 for debt relief "considering the negative impact of the infection on the macroeconomic situation,” RFE/RL reported.
President Emomali Rahmon again claimed on April 23 that there are no registered cases of coronavirus in Tajikistan, yet asked Muslims not to fast during the month of Ramadan, which starts this week, because fasting can make one "vulnerable to infectious diseases."
A spate of mysterious deaths, and apparent government coverups, are undermining the president's claim. A school in the capital was closed after a teacher died of a lung ailment. Authorities did not turn the body over to the family for burial, Fergana reported on April 23, but instead the teacher was "buried in a funeral shroud soaked in bleach." On April 20, authorities attributed another suspicious death to swine flu, not COVID-19. Four more people in Dushanbe died of pneumonia on April 22, which the government has blamed on bad weather.
Alarmed by mysterious deaths in their village, residents in northern Tajikistan have set up checkpoints where they take visitor’s temperatures and disinfect vehicles before they are allowed to enter, Radio Ozodi reported on April 22.
The government closed mosques as of April 18 and banned gatherings for Ramadan, which begins around April 24, Asia-Plus reported. Ahead of the ban coming into force, thousands of men gathered for Friday prayers on April 17, AFP reported, many wearing masks.
The World Health Organization said it will send an "expert mission" to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan next week to verify both countries' claims that they have registered zero COVID-19 infections, Kommersant reported on April 23. The paper said Russian officials view the claims "with some suspicion."
The Dushanbe city health department on April 17 took receipt of 20,000 coronavirus test kits and 10 ventilators donated by Tajik energy infrastructure building company TGEM. The company, which is privately owned but rumored to be linked to the president’s son, Rustam Emomali, says it intends to buy an additional 20 ventilators. Tajikistan has no confirmed coronavirus cases to date.
The Health Ministry does not know how many ventilators are in the country, Asia-Plus reported on April 2.
On April 25 the government banned the export of basic food items including cereals, legumes, eggs, potatoes and meat, RFE/RL reported. The UN had reported price increases for food basics on April 17 compared to the previous week: "for wheat flour (4-9 percent), cotton oil (2-9 percent), carrots (18-36 percent) and onion (6-11 percent) in several markets, and potato (20-46 percent)." The World Food Program has classified the food price spike as a "crisis" in the country.
The IMF paused the debt repayments of 25 poor countries including Tajikistan for six months on April 13.
The overall volume of cash transfers from Russia decreased between 30 and 35 percent in March compared to last year, according to two of the major payment systems, RBK reported on April 7. Tajikistan is among the most remittance-dependent country in the world. Tajik workers in Russia send home billions of dollars per year, equivalent to about 30 percent of GDP.
The National Bank has set the somoni at 10.2 to the dollar, but nobody is offering that rate on the black market, where the dollar sells at more than 10.70 somoni.
Authorities marshaled thousands of spectators into packed stadiums to celebrate Horse Day, a local holiday, on April 25 and 26. "After a long discussion," judges determined that a horse belonging to strongman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was the most beautiful.
Turkmenistan continues to insist it has not registered any cases of COVID-19. "We're not hiding anything," Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told a meeting of foreign officials on April 22, in response to concerns the country's figures are unreliable. "If there was a single confirmed coronavirus case, we would have immediately informed ... the World Health Organization in line with our obligations," Reuters quoted him as saying. Meredov also offered foreign officials a chance to visit a quarantine center.
Vienna-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan on April 14 cited unidentified sources as saying that at least seven people are being held in isolation in the city of Turkmenabat after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
"Turkmenistan has one of the highest ratios of out-of-pocket spending to total health expenditure in the world, which means that the costs of a major COVID outbreak might be passed onto an economically precarious population, particularly at a time when public finances are likely to come under severe pressure," said the OECD on April 15. "Growth will fall markedly in 2020."
Reports of food shortages and skyrocketing prices are becoming more common.
- State of emergency. Borders closed. Schools closed. Public transportation suspended. Travel by car in cities banned.
- President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has instructed officials to relax lockdown restrictions in areas without confirmed cases of COVID-19 and in places where the situation appears to be improving, Podrobno.uz reported on April 21. He also promised to ease restrictions in the construction industry to help the economy. Podrobno.uz also reported that over 86,000 people have been caught violating the lockdown. If each person was assessed the minimum mandated fine, that would contribute $38 million to government coffers.
- Chief mufti Usmonkhon Alimov issued a fatwa on April 14 proscribing public Ramadan events such as group iftars or gatherings for prayer, Podrobno.uz reported. The month of Ramadan begins this year on April 23.
- Strict shelter-in-place rules prohibit residents of Tashkent and regional centers leaving their homes except to buy food or medicine, visit a doctor or go to work. Anyone found outside without a valid reason may be fined up to 6.6 million sum (almost $700), Podrobno.uz reported, or about three times the average monthly wage. Previously, fines for appearing without a mask stood at 1.1 million sum.
- Six medical facilities in Tashkent have been placed under quarantine after people infected with COVID-19 were found inside, Podrobno reported on April 23. Uzbekistan does not routinely publish figures on the number of medical workers infected with the disease.
- Uzbekistan says it will open the first wing of a new 10,000-bed infectious disease hospital in May, Reuters reported on April 22. The hospital is being built to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Chief state sanitary inspector Nurmat Atabekov said on April 15 that up to 9,000 people are being tested every day. He said that capacity is limited, however. Uzbekistan has 200 devices spread across 40 laboratories that are able to do PCR-based tests, Atabekov said.
President Mirziyoyev is seeking billions of dollars in aid from international finance institutions, RFE/RL reported on April 24.
The Finance Ministry has postponed indefinitely a move to liberalize energy prices, Gazeta.uz reported on April 23. The plan to raise prices, unveiled last August, was designed to attract foreign investment.
Foreign trade turnover in the first quarter fell 11 percent year-on-year, the state statistics committee said on April 21. Gold accounted for 30 percent of exports.
A Eurasian Economic Union ban on food exports until June 30 will impact Uzbekistan's ability to feed itself, according to an analysis by an Uzbek business magazine reprinted by Podrobno.uz on April 13. The country imports most of the vegetable oil, soybeans and sunflower seeds it needs from Kazakhstan and Russia, EAEU members. Its own cooking oil refining industry employs 15,000 people, many of whom will lack inputs under the ban. Left unsaid is the pressure the Russia-led trade bloc is heaping on former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that are not members, but import key foodstuffs from neighbors that are.
Our recent headlines
Kazakhstan: Coronavirus tests a stuttering private sector
Kazakhstan is still far from being the developed market economy its leaders pine for. And the current crisis risks shunting the country back toward a more traditional, state-directed stance.
Georgia’s nightmare before Easter
Georgia has received plaudits for its response to COVID-19. But as the biggest event in the Christian calendar approaches, the nation finds itself torn between church and state, faith and science.
Kazakhstan: 2.7 million receive coronavirus payments, millions more waiting
60 percent of the working population has filed for financial aid.
As it attempts to reopen economy, Armenia juggles stimulus plans
Businesses complain the plans do not address the scope of coronavirus-related economic damage.
In trial by fire, Armenia pilots distance learning
Armenia’s success with distance learning is overwhelming parents and teachers, and illuminating socio-economic divides.
Kazakhstan: Medics struggling to keep themselves safe
182 health workers have been infected at one hospital alone.
Tajikistan: The mysterious deaths raising suspicion
Officials insist they are testing for coronavirus and finding no cases
Uzbekistan shores up food defenses as coronavirus rages
Mirziyoyev wants his country-people to grow more of their own vegetables.