Dashboard: Coronavirus in Eurasia - March 16-22
Reports from March 16-22 on how the pandemic has upended life in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
Last updated: March 22
For the latest dashboard, click here.
Kyrgyzstan: Anxiety creeping, but few can afford luxury of COVID-19 panic
There are six confirmed cases to date. All returned from Mecca.
Georgia gets rare plaudits for coronavirus response
As countries around the world struggle to manage the pandemic, Georgia has become an unlikely success story.
Azerbaijan's president suggests coronavirus may require a crackdown on opposition
In his Nowruz address, Aliyev said that his political opponents were a “fifth column" trying to use the outbreak to “destroy Azerbaijan.”
- State of emergency; media restrictions; travel restrictions; schools closed.
- The government has forced two media outlets to remove or edit stories related to the virus, threatening them with fines of $1,000 to $1,600. Press freedom advocates call the move "censorship." (March 19)
- 136 confirmed cases as of March 20, no deaths reported.
- Yerevan is distributing pandemic information through the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an arm of the Health Ministry.
- Large stores and shopping centers were closed on March 23 for one month.
- President Ilham Aliyev said on March 19 that the coronavirus crisis may require a state of emergency, warning that "anti-Azerbaijani forces, the fifth column and national traitors" may try to take advantage of the situation to destabilize the country.
Oil workers are stranded on offshore platforms, OC Media reported on March 20.
Police are investigating a Baku resident for posting "made-up information" about coronavirus on Facebook, without referencing government agencies, Trend reported on March 21.
- Police are stopping vehicles not registered in Baku, Sumgait and the Absheron Peninsula from entering the region. (since March 19)
- Schools closed.
- New coronavirus information portal. Azerbaijan is giving doctors working on the coronavirus response a raise of three to five times their normal salary.
- The OSCE has paused its monitoring mission on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontlines. (March 18)
- A state of emergency began over the weekend. President Salome Zurabishvili said the legal measure would not curtail the rights of journalists or invoke curfews.
- Georgia quarantined two southern regions on March 22 after a woman tested positive who had recently attended a large religious service. It is not known how she became infected.
- Georgia’s Health Ministry has launched an information portal. Schools closed.
- Georgia's Orthodox Church refused on March 20 to modify the communion ritual to stem the spread of infection. A Patriarchate spokesman said the ritual, wherein worshippers share a spoon, could not cause infection and a told believers that "it is unacceptable to suspect the essence of the sacrament."
- All shops except for supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, post offices, and banks will be closed as of March 21, the government announced on March 20. All flights will be cancelled, except those coordinated by the government to bring Georgian citizens home.
- Georgia’s national air carrier, Georgian Airways, has furloughed 95 percent of its employees indefinitely without pay. (March 20)
- The Georgian lari hit a record low against the dollar on March 19, reaching 3.18/$.
- State of emergency, borders closed. Schools closed.
- The number of confirmed coronavirus carriers in Kazakhstan rose to 52 on March 22. Two cases have been detected in the city of Karaganda, the first examples to be found outside the two main cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan. The carriers had travelled to the country from Belarus. Almaty and Nur-Sultan are under a quarantine regime as are several apartment blocks in Almaty.
- Almaty police detained five taxi drivers who had, for a fee, promised to circumvent police roadblocks into the city.
- The Health Ministry is publishing a daily bulletin online.
- Residents of the business capital, Almaty, have reported an unusually clean sky over their city, an effect some are attributing to the reduced number of cars on the streets. More cautious residents put it down to recent rainfall. (March 22)
- The government reported 14 cases as of March 21, up from six the day before.
- A state of emergency began on March 22. The plan envisions checkpoints between towns and cities, among other measures to restrict the movement of the population.
- Schools are closed.
- The country has banned entry to foreigners.
- The former American military base at Manas airport is being used as a quarantine site.
- The Interior Ministry says 15 people have been detained for spreading disinformation on social networks.
President Emomali Rahmon spent the weekend touring newly opened industrial and agricultural plants in the north of the country. He also inaugurated a new headquarters for the ruling party in the city of Buston. He is not known to have remarked on measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Tajikistan still had no confirmed cases as of March 22.
The Health Ministry is providing some information on quarantines. The State Department warned travelers by email on March 19 that "Medical protocols in Tajikistan are not consistent with U.S. standards. Consider declining any medical testing unrelated to COVID-19."
- Officials, insisting they do not have any cases, proceeded with a celebration to mark the Novruz spring holiday on March 21. Thousands gathered in close proximity in major cities.
Mosques were reopened on March 19 after disinfection, but airports said they would close at midnight on March 20.
Tajikistan’s president on March 18 addressed a gathering of the country’s scientists and researchers. In his lengthy speech, he lamented at one stage that Tajikistan is lagging in the study of vaccines for livestock. He made no mention of coronavirus.
- The official exchange rate for Tajikistan’s currency, the somoni, has been allowed to drop from 9.72 to the dollar to around 10.2 somoni on March 20. The National Bank says it has allowed this slide in light of surging local demand for the dollar amidst the unfolding global economic meltdown.
- The Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to refrain from traveling to neighboring Kyrgyzstan following the confirmation of that country’s first handful of cases this week. (March 19)
State news continues to make no mention of COVID-19. Turkmen authorities have not acknowledged any confirmed cases, despite independent media reports to the contrary.
At midnight on March 20 officials sealed off the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why, RFE/RL reported. A correspondent said cars and buses arriving from outside the city were not being allowed to enter.
- Official sources in Turkmenistan made a rare allusion to COVID-19 on March 18 in their report on a telephone conversation between President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
- Turkey, state news reported on March 19 that 20 Turkmen citizens have died and 34 been hospitalized for drinking rubbing alcohol. Some apparently believed the antiseptic would protect them from coronavirus.
- State of emergency, borders closed. Schools closed.
- Starting March 23, anyone venturing outside their home in Tashkent and other cities will be required to wear a mask.
- Public transportation in Tashkent has been canceled, effective March 22. Taxis will be disinfected, the city administration says.
- Weddings, funerals and other events with more than 10-15 people will be prohibited from March 23.
- Travel by bus, car, railway and planes in and out of Uzbekistan has been suspended as of March 20. The restriction will remain in place for 40 days. All kinds of freight transport are exempt from the ban. The Health Ministry on March 20 said it had registered its 33rd case of COVID-19 in the country.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has announced that the government is creating a 10 trillion sum ($1 billion) anti-crisis war chest to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s economy. (March 20)
The Health Ministry is publishing updates online.
Schools have been closed and teachers sent on paid leave. State television stations will broadcast lessons, the education minister said on March 17.
- Senior clerics have issued a fatwa calling on Muslims not attend Friday prayers until the health situation has stabilized. They say the five daily prayers should be performed at home.
Kazakhstan outlines plan to shelter economy from COVID-19
The anti-crisis menu includes tax breaks, fewer audits and cheaper credit.
Tajikistan braces for grim times as oil, COVID-19 assail Russian economy
As the government pretends everything is normal, families are in a state of deepening anxiety over a perfect storm that could plunge the country into an unusually severe crisis.
Armenia to build instant hospital ward for COVID-19
Within “3-4 days” the country’s main infectious disease hospital should have a new 40-bed ward, the minister of health reported.
Turkmenistan: Up in smoke
The government is pointedly ignoring the global crisis. The very word “coronavirus” has made no appearance on any official websites since March 5.
Caucasus unrecognized states remain coronavirus-free
The isolation of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh have served them well as the disease spreads all around them.
Armenia institutes COVID-19 state of emergency
Public gatherings of more than 20 have been banned and media coverage heavily restricted.
Uzbekistan confirms COVID-19 case, closes borders
Kazakhstan has declared a one-month state of emergency.
Oil crash sparks a surge in demand for dollars in Azerbaijan
Many fear another currency devaluation as oil prices plummet, but the government claims that it has the situation under control
Georgia unveils COVID-19 economic stimulus
The plan targets the tourism sector but leaves others wondering what they will do as coronavirus ravages the global economy.
Nerves jangled as COVID-19 finally detected in Kazakhstan
The three cases are the first official reports of the novel coronavirus in Central Asia.
Tajikistan: Authorities spark COVID-19 panic by urging calm
Mosques have been shuttered and shoppers are stockpiling food.
Chinese business briefing: Corona cursed
Central Asia claims zero cases of coronavirus, but the economic symptoms are everywhere. This and more in our monthly briefing on Chinese business in the region.
Turkmenistan: Going viral
Borders close, food prices jump, and the president prays. This and more in our weekly Turkmenistan briefing.
Georgians advised to stop kissing amid coronavirus scare
The advice came as Georgia reported two cases of the virus, and neighboring Azerbaijan, one.
Following coronavirus outbreak in Iran, Armenia closes border and Azerbaijan keeps it open
Armenia went farther than most of Iran’s neighbors, closing its border for two weeks. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, was the only country to have not closed its border with Iran at all.
Turkmenistan: Masking reality
The hidden impact of coronavirus, a new secret police chief, and reading the government’s imagined data to understand its priorities and mindset. This and more in our weekly Turkmenistan briefing.
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