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Last updated: March 29
A brief guide to economic stimuli in Eurasia
Twin economic shocks have gripped Central Asia and the Caucasus with astonishing speed.
Georgian currency falls ill as virus spreads
The Georgian lari has become one of the fastest depreciating currencies in Europe, despite the fact that coronavirus has hit the country relatively weakly.
Kazakhstan records first COVID-19 fatality in Central Asia
The victim was a 64-year-old woman.
- State of emergency; travel restrictions; schools closed.
- The most confirmed cases in the Caucasus as of March 27 – including five service members. The first death was reported on March 26.
- The government has loosened some media restrictions after criticism from the OSCE.
Armenia announced it is closing its border with Nagorno-Karabakh except for residents of Karabakh, cargo shipments, and journalists and observers working on next week’s elections in the de-facto republic.
Authorities have introduced an app to help people determine if they need to visit a hospital for COVID-19 testing. The data is sent to a central registry.
- Lockdown: beginning March 24, restaurants have closed for everything but delivery, light industry has stopped and most construction paused, the prime minister announced. A full list of exceptions is available in English here.
- Independent news outlet EVN Report is running a liveblog on the crisis.
- Schools closed.
- According to a March 27 government order, traffic between regions has been banned, the Baku metro will operate two hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, and access to parks has been restricted.
- Police say a man tried to smuggle another man into Baku in the trunk of his Lada. Both were detained on March 27.
- People 65 or older are prohibited from leaving their homes unless they are healthcare workers.
- Large stores and shopping centers are closed.
- The official in charge of government communications on coronavirus said that the rate of new infections to patients who recover has “a similar dynamic to Spain.”
- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has criticized President Ilham Aliyev for using coronavirus to threaten the opposition. “I am astonished and appalled by the Azerbaijani government’s shameful exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic to launch yet another crack-down on the country’s beleaguered political opposition," Sir Roger Gale said on March 25. “It beggars belief that any head of state would abuse a public health emergency in order to tighten his grip on power.” In response, on March 27 Baku condemned PACE’s "biased" statement.
- Oil workers stranded on offshore platforms are being told to work a 40-day shift, rather than 10 days, OC Media reported on March 25. Azerbaijan plans to begin producing masks this month, starting with 90,000 per day, Turan.az reported March 25.
Baku has sealed off the exclave of Nakhchivan, with a population of about 450,000, from the rest of Azerbaijan and closed its international borders. Only cargo is allowed to pass, OC Media reported March 25.
- Police are stopping vehicles not registered in Baku, Sumgait and the Absheron Peninsula from entering the region.
- The OSCE has paused its monitoring mission on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontlines. (March 18)
- The country has reported two deaths from COVID-19 as of March 26.
- State of emergency. Schools closed.
- All shops except supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, post offices, and banks are closed. All flights, except those coordinated by the government to bring Georgian citizens home, have been canceled.
- Police fined a minibus driver about $900 for ignoring the state of emergency and transporting people from Tbilisi to Kakheti region. Police also fined six people for leaving quarantine.
- The Georgian Orthodox Church has blasted media reports that sharing the communion spoon constitutes a public health risk and warned the faithful that rejecting communion is akin to rejecting Christ. Still, it did call on sick parishioners to stay home.
- 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. NGOs have raised concerns about hate speech against ethnic Azerbaijanis; the regions are home to a sizable community of ethnic Azerbaijanis.
- The breakaway region of Abkhazia has declared a state of emergency and stopped public transportation. It has banned tourists, the mainstay of the economy, and closed most businesses. South Ossetia, Georgia's other breakaway region, on March 27 also stepped up emergency measures.
- Georgia’s national air carrier, Georgian Airways, has furloughed 95 percent of its employees indefinitely without pay. (March 20)
- OC-Media has a liveblog on the crisis, as does Civil.ge.
- The first death due to the virus was confirmed on March 26.
- State of emergency, borders closed. Schools closed.
- The activities of almost all enterprises in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, the main hotspots for coronavirus in Kazakhstan, are to be suspended from March 30 to April 5. Government organs, law enforcement, health service providers, media outlets, grocery stories and pharmacies are the only entities permitted to continue operating. From March 28, people will not be allowed outdoors other than to buy groceries and medicine or to go to work. Parks, squares, pedestrian streets, riverside footpaths and playgrounds will be closed. Underage children will not be permitted out without their parents.
- Kazakhstan is drafting new rules on how to bury people who die of COVID-19.
- The government has launched an app featuring a map showing the number and location of coronavirus carriers. The app also has an option for infected people to provide data about who they have been in contact with and what places they have visited.
- Prosecutors in Nur-Sultan on March 26 said 159 have faced criminal charges for violating the terms of the state of emergency since the city went into lockdown on March 19. Among the businesses that have resisted the requirement to close are five beauty salons, five saunas, 13 cafes and three billiard halls.
Two patients sick with the coronavirus have been cured and will be released from the hospital on March 26, Information Minister Dauren Abayev has said.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited the National Biotechnology Center, which is processing the polymerase chain reaction tests being used to identify potential coronavirus carriers, on March 25. He again urged the public not to panic, because “epidemics have since ancient times bypassed those places where optimism and good cheer reign.”
Some are pushing back against restrictive anti-coronavirus measures. Four people who tried to circumvent the lockdown imposed on the city of Almaty have been sentenced to five days in jail. In Karaganda, where two cases have been confirmed, police found that two discos were flouting orders to stop operating as required by the state of emergency.
Authorities have banned the export of key foodstuffs, including buckwheat, wheat, carrots, potatoes and more. "Right now it is especially important for us to ensure uninterrupted supplies to the domestic market," Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov wrote on Facebook.
Kazakhstan expects to receive 266,000 more COVID-19 tests kits on March 27, Information Minister Dauren Abayev has said. The plan is for the tests to be delivered to medical workers by March 29.
- The tenge has lost about 14 percent of its value over the last two weeks. On March 23, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered state-run businesses to convert their hard currency reserves to tenge.
- Kazakhstan has suspended its spring call-up for military service.
- Large numbers of pigeons have dropped dead in Almaty after streets and parks were disinfected.
- State of emergency, schools closed.
- The government has asked neighboring China to send doctors to help.
- Under the state of emergency in effect on March 25 in three cities of Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek, Osh and Jalal-Abad – people are not allowed to go onto the street from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Medical personnel, law enforcement officers, government workers and people with special permits are exempted. Anybody leaving home must carry a self-declaration form stating their reason for being out.
Deputy Interior Minister Almazbek Orozaliyev said 48 checkpoints have been erected at entrance points into the capital, Bishkek.
Police in the southern city of Osh said on March 27 they were forced to open fire when a woman in a car attempted to drive past a checkpoint erected as part of anti-coronavirus containment measures. The woman was demanding to be let into the city as she was expected at work, notwithstanding the lockdown. Police fired warning gunshots in the air. There are 36 checkpoints around the south of the country.
The government banned the export of most basic foodstuffs on March 23.
- Kaktus news website says it has received reports from front-line medical workers about a lack of protective equipment and say that doctors are forced to come into direct contact with infected people. An official for the Health Ministry on March 26 said, however, that they have no information about medical workers being infected. To date, 44 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Kyrgyzstan.
The city hall in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, is offering psychological counseling by phone in three languages – Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Russia – for people suffering from anxiety as a result of the unfolding coronavirus crisis.
- 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.
- Kloop.kg has a liveblog on the crisis.
- Russia has lifted its entry restrictions for citizens of Commonwealth of Independent States members, which includes countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Under the decree, which was posted online on March 23, anybody from those countries may freely enter or exit Russia by air or land.
There are still no confirmed cases in Tajikistan as of March 26, but sustained shopping by spooked citizens is pushing up prices for many staple goods. Over the past two weeks, for example, the price of a kilo of potatoes has gone up from 3.80 somoni ($0.38) to 5 somoni, onions from 2.50 somoni to 4 somoni. 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.
The Health Ministry on March 27 held a meeting to discuss plans on what to do in the event a case of coronavirus is detected in the country. A group of volunteers has been enlisted to go out among the people and provide information.
President Rahmon has continued to disregard the advice of international health experts and attend crowded mass events, at times posing for pictures with large groups of people. At one event, he was almost knocked off his feet by a cluster of enthusiastic children, whom he then hugged and kissed.
Russia's federal consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor has donated 210 COVID-19 test systems to Tajikistan, Asia-Plus reported on March 26. The consignment should enable health workers to carry out up to 21,000 tests. Rospotrebnadzor delivered a batch of around 2,000 tests in early February.
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.
Schools are closed for a spring holiday. As of March 24, authorities had said nothing about plans after schools are scheduled to reopen on April 1.
Tajik airlines are arranging charter flights to evacuate Tajik citizens stranded in Russia.
Tajikistan has closed its borders (at least at official checkpoints; its borders are notoriously porous).
The Health Ministry is providing some information on quarantines.
Mosques were reopened on March 19 after being disinfected.
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.
Movement into Ashgabat was suspended on March 19, but then eased again on March 23, at which point people entering were required to have their temperature taken.
Food prices are skyrocketing in the country, RFE/RL reports, and shortages growing.
A group of Russian and other foreign nationals will be evacuated on a charter flight out of Turkmenistan’s city of Turkmenabat to Moscow on March 28.
- State of emergency. Borders closed. Schools closed. Public transportation in the capital canceled. Travel by car in cities banned from March 30.
- As of March 27, all forms of transport between regions in Uzbekistan – cars, planes and trains – have been suspended. Freight traffic is exempted from the traffic ban. The Interior Ministry has appealed to the public not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.
- Uzbekistan has increased the fine for appearing in public without a mask to 1.1 million sum, Podrobno.uz reported on March 26; that is, according to IMF data, about double the monthly minimum wage.
- A second person has died of COVID-19, a 39-year-old doctor, authorities announced on March 28. He had treated an infected person who had traveled from France, a woman presumed to be Uzbekistan's patient-zero.
- President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on March 27 that there are 11 employees of the government’s Virology Research Institute among the country’s 83 recorded cases of coronavirus.
- The government has announced bonuses to health workers who come in contact with coronavirus patients. If the health worker is infected, he or she is in theory entitled to compensation up to $26,000.
- Weddings, funerals and other events with more than 10-15 people are prohibited.
- The National Guard has been enlisted to monitor more than 5,000 homes and apartments where people are being kept under quarantine. Podrobno.uz has cited a National Guard representative as saying 3,000 military personnel and other specialists are involved in this operation. As of March 25, 325 people had been caught violating the terms of their quarantine.
- Uzbek news website Kun.uz has published a photo essay showing scenes in the city of Khiva, which is deserted these days, just as the spring tourist season is supposed to be starting.
- Deputy Justice Minister Khudoyor Meliyev has said that people diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed in quarantine will have their mobile phones, audio and video equipment and bank cards temporarily confiscated because these objects “could be carriers of the virus.”
- Uzbekistan’s Innovation Development Ministry says local scientists have developed their own test for COVID-19 that they say yields results within five or six hours. The ministry said the test was developed with assistance from the U.S. Embassy.
- Uzbekistan has closed access through the mountain pass that connects the Ferghana Valley to the rest of the country. Only people living in the Ferghana Valley may pass in order to return home.
- Public transportation in the Ferghana Valley city of Namangan was suspended from March 26 after a resident was diagnosed with coronavirus. The man had traveled to Uzbekistan from Istanbul. A ban on entry and exit into the city is not applied to the transportation of goods and people with a permanent residence permit.
Uzbekistan is building 10 new hospitals for quarantining and treating patients diagnosed with the coronavirus. The buildings are going up in Tashkent and in the Andijan, Navoi and Surkhandarya regions. As of March 26, there are 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.
All kinds of freight transport are exempt from the border closure.
The Central Bank has advised the public to refrain from using paper money as much as possible to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus. Uzbekistan is an intensely cash-based economy and many businesses have no facilities to accept card payments.
For last week's dashboard, click here.
Kazakhstan: Diary of a city in quarantine
We’re not allowed in or out. Gossiping thrives in such times as these.
To fight coronavirus, Azerbaijan passes the hat
Azerbaijan is supposed to be the richest country in the region. So why is it asking for donations to help it deal with the coronavirus outbreak?
Turkmenistan: Unjust deserts
Officials do not explain why they are imposing such stringent internal restrictions if Turkmenistan is, as they insist, genuinely coronavirus-free.
Coronavirus testing Georgia’s faith in its church
The church’s obstinacy in not giving up the practice of sharing spoons for communion – a clear public health threat – is causing an unprecedented debate over the church’s role in society.
Armenia takes hard line against media reporting on COVID-19
Journalism organizations in the country complain that the police are going too far in their efforts to censor non-official news about the outbreak.
Tajikistan: Feast in the time of coronavirus
The president is bullish that his country will dodge the pandemic and spent the weekend glad-handing the public.
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.”
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.