Dashboard: Coronavirus in Eurasia May - 11-17
Reports from May 11-17 on how the pandemic has upended life in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
This is an archived page. For the latest coronavirus dashboard, click here.
Tajikistan on track to suffer region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak
Despite the massive spike in infections, Tajikistan is still refraining from instituting the kinds of precautionary measures seen in nearby countries.
Kyrgyzstan: Rapper voices nation’s angst in the time of coronavirus
Sayasat is based on stories pulled straight from the headlines.
Without Georgian migrants, Turkish tea farmers buckle
Tens of thousands of Georgian workers are unable to access Turkish tea plantations while the border remains closed. Cultivators are anxious over debt and further privatization.
Turkmenistan: More lean times looming
The coronavirus story in Turkmenistan continues to trudge on as a lugubrious farce, writes our Akhal-Teke columnist, with representatives of the UN and WHO again allowing themselves to be used as public relations cover.
Tajikistan: Reporter for independent newspaper assaulted
Abdullo Gurbati had become the object of a smear campaign for probing official stonewalling on the coronavirus outbreak.
Uzbekistan’s small business counting days to post-coronavirus freedom
Before the pandemic, small businesses accounted for around 56 percent of Uzbekistan’s GDP.
Kyrgyzstan’s coronavirus tracking app alarms privacy advocates
There is anecdotal evidence that although the app is voluntary, many people are being pressured into loading it on their phones.
Coronavirus infects Armenia-Georgia rivalry
With the disease spreading far more slowly in Georgia, Armenians are asking: what did they do that we didn’t?
- Nationwide state of emergency through June 13. Schools closed.
- A ban on public transportation will be lifted on May 18, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan announced on May 15. Shopping centers, restaurants and gyms will reopen, though face masks will be required in all public places and groups of more than five prohibited.
- Cafes with outdoor seating were allowed to reopen on May 4, as were factories and beauty salons.
- On April 26, Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned that hospitals were nearing capacity.
The EBRD said on May 13 that it expects Armenia’s GDP to fall by 3.5 percent this year.
Pashinyan told parliament on May 5 that his government has assisted 24,000 businesses and 360,000 individuals since the crisis began, OC Media reported. In addition, he said, over 1 million households received help paying utilities bills, to the tune of $4 million.
- Schools and most stores closed. Traffic between regions banned; parks closed. Borders closed.
- The government will end some lockdown measures on May 18, including the requirement that anyone wishing to go outside must first notify police, authorities announced on May 15. People over age 65 will be allowed outside their homes for the first time since March 24. Borders will remain closed. Inter-city transportation and most large gatherings will remain banned. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen with a limited number of patrons.
- Pharmacists in Baku say they are having trouble sourcing medicines due to the country’s closed borders, Radio Azadliq reported on May 12.
- The Baku metro resumed operations on May 9 for the first time since March 31. Riders must tell police their reason for boarding and maintain social distancing.
- Forty-six prisoners in Azerbaijan have tested positive, according to a government count, OC Media reported on May 15.
The EBRD said on May 13 that it expects Armenia’s GDP to fall by 3.5 percent this year.
Customs revenues fell 5.6 percent in April compared to April 2019, Turan reported on May 12.
- The government plans to end the state of emergency and nightly curfew on May 22, prime minister Giorgi Gakharia said on May 15.
- A ban on gatherings of more than three people will be lifted on May 18, the government said on May 14. Beauty salons will also be allowed to reopen.
- On May 11, restrictions on entering and leaving Tbilisi were lifted, manufacturing resumed, and all stores, except for clothing stores and shopping malls, were allowed to reopen. On May 14, restrictions on entering several other cities will be ended. Restrictions on entering and leaving Kutaisi and Batumi, Georgia’s second and third cities were lifted on May 5.
- The government has brought over 10,000 Georgian citizens home since the pandemic began, local media quoted the Foreign Ministry saying on May 8.
- The government's April 24 anti-crisis plan outlines a phased reopening over roughly eight weeks.
Senior Church officials have condemned any future COVID-19 vaccine, declaring that vaccination is the “devil’s machinations,” Ekho Kavkaza reported on May 11.
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.
International money transfers into Georgia fell 42.3 percent in April year-on-year, Interpress reported on May 15.
The government is negotiating with Israel to develop a safe “green corridor” for uninfected tourists, the prime minister said on May 14.
The EBRD said on May 13 that it expects Georgia’s GDP to fall by 5.5 percent this year.
Under an agricultural assistance package announced on May 12, about 200,000 farmers with plots of under 10 hectares will will receive 200 lari ($62) per hectare. Also, farmers will be exempt from paying irrigation taxes this year, be able to source diesel at below-market prices, and receive government grants to assist with procuring new machinery and technology.
- The International Crisis Group said that the South Caucasus’ three breakaway territories – Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia – are uniquely vulnerable with their aging populations and dilapidated healthcare systems. They are unlikely to share true infection numbers and may find their patrons unable to help in this time of greater need. “Their contested status complicates or blocks international aid. Moreover, traditional lifelines from foreign benefactors and diaspora communities are strained as many are contending with their own hardships."
- "South Ossetia arguably is at greatest risk,” the ICG said in the May 6 report. “Hospitals are severely underequipped. [...] many of the region’s medical professionals have had no training for years, lacking even the know-how to operate 26 ventilators delivered from Russia."
- South Ossetia closed its border with Russia on April 5, including for freight, sealing the contested territory off from the world. It has extended the closure through May. The region's first case was confirmed on May 6. The patient arrived from Russia on April 30, state media reported. It is unclear how he passed the border, which has been closed. The number of cases had risen to 30 as of May 14.
- Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, lifted many restrictions on movement on May 15, allowing cafes, restaurants and gyms to reopen and inter-city minibus services to resume, OC Media reported. Most cases in the region were brought by students returning home from Russian military academies. 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 de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh declared a state of emergency on April 12. As of May 15, the region's de facto Health Ministry said it had recorded 20 cases and that eight people had recovered. Overall, the ministry added, it has carried out 554 tests in total.
- The state of emergency ended on May 11. Restrictions will be lifted in stages. Schools remain closed.
From May 18, hotels, small restaurants and restaurants with outdoor seating will be allowed to reopen, the government said on May 13. Mosques and churches can also reopen, but they are not to exceed 30 percent capacity. Rail service will resume in phases starting on June 1.
The lifting of restrictions in the western Aktobe region will be delayed, however, due to a spike in infections, including among workers at the flagship Tengiz oilfield, authorities said on May 15.
Checkpoints within Almaty have been dismantled, city officials said on May 4, though police cautioned that restrictions on movement continue. “This does not mean that quarantine has been canceled. The conditions and rules have remained the same: You cannot move around the city unless absolutely necessary,” said Police Chief Kanat Taymerdenov. Checkpoints around the city perimeter remain.
Airlines will no longer require proof of a negative COVID-19 test as of May 11, Tengrinews reported.
- While noting some successes in fighting COVID-19, the Health Ministry warned on May 8 that it expects a second wave of infections in the autumn.
- Reports of domestic violence increased fourfold between February and April.
Hundreds of market traders protested in Nur-Sultan on May 14 over demands from the market owners that they pay two months’ rent in advance during a period in which most are not able to work, Radio Azattyq reported.
Retail trade fell 45 percent year-on-year in April, Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov said on May 12.
Under the terms of the OPEC+ agreement, Kazakhstan will reduce oil production by 390,000 barrels per day, the Energy Ministry said on May 1. The day before the state oil company announced it had laid off 34 percent of staff at its Nur-Sultan headquarters.
- Curfews were lifted in Bishkek, Osh and Jalalabad on May 11, as well as in the At-Bashy district of the Naryn region. A state of emergency remains throughout the country and schools remain closed. The government has allowed some small businesses to reopen.
Since May 4, residents of Issyk-Kul province have been prohibited from traveling to other regions without urgent need and a pass from local authorities. Others are only able to enter the province by showing a certificate indicating they have tested negative for COVID-19 and by submitting to quarantine for 14 days.
- A Kyrgyz lawmaker on April 30 asked the government to be more careful when it prepares resolutions on the state of emergency, 24.kg reported. "Does Kyrgyzstan even have mechanical engineering? Couldn't you at least try to hide the fact you just copied Kazakhstan's resolution?" MP Kanybek Imanaliev said.
- 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.
- The Ministry of Health on May 12 reported that a vender at the Frunze supermarket in Bishkek was found to be infected. Doctors are examining other employees at the market.
- In Russia's Pskov region, 38 of 40 Kyrgyz citizens working on a new infectious diseases hospital were diagnosed with COVID-19, the head of the region's health inspectorate said at a May 5 briefing.
- Business Ombudsman Robin Ord-Smith warned that excessive bureaucracy would slow the economic recovery. The requirement that businesses should receive a special permit to move around Bishkek is creating "hours-long queues" that hinder the economy while threatening to spread COVID-19, he said on May 12.
- On May 12 RFE/RL released a video report from the Dordoi bazaar outside Bishkek, the largest market in Central Asia, where some 50,000 people are now unemployed. "I am not afraid of dying from the coronavirus, but from hunger," said one lady who works and lives at the market.
- Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov said on May 12 that by the end of May more than 1,000 Kyrgyzstanis are hoping to return to Kyrgyzstan. Most are in Moscow and Istanbul. In total, 8,700 citizens have asked the Foreign Ministry for help returning.
Deputy Prime Minister Erkin Asrandiev on May 6 said that tax revenues in the first quarter were 22 percent lower than expected, a shortfall of some 9.7 billion soms (over $125 million).
Despite a massive spike in infections, Tajikistan as of May 15 is still refraining from instituting the kinds of precautionary measures seen in nearby countries. Public transportation is crowded, it is still permitted to leave one’s home at any time and meet in groups. Social distancing is generally not observed. Schools, many shops, although not grocery stories, and beauty salons are closed, however. Bazaars selling food are still operating.
Pharmacies are running short of basic supplies, writes our Tajikistan correspondent, as shoppers seek to buy up whatever medicine is available.
Tajikistan has blocked a website that is trying to independently track COVID-related deaths. The crowd-sourced site, kvtj.info, lists hundreds of deaths caused by COVID-19 or related pneumonia, many times the government's official tally.
Tajikistan must prepare for the worst-case-scenario, the WHO warned on May 12, as the virus spreads all around the country and the number of cases doubles every three days. Only one lab in the country has the capability of carrying out testing, Fergana News reported on May 13.
Former Industry Minister Zaid Saidov, who is serving a 29-year sentence for fraud, polygamy, statutory rape and other charges that government critics call politicized, is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, his son says. Khayrullo Saidov has asked the government to temporarily release his father, Radio Ozodi reported on May 6.
The World Bank predicted up to 21,000 people could die of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, Asia-Plus reported on May 1.
In a letter to the IMF reported by Asia-Plus on May 8, President Emomali Rahmon said that remittance transfers from Tajik laborers in Russia fell 50 percent in March and the first half of April. Remittances equal about a third of GDP. The IMF on May 6 approved a $189.5 million grant to Tajikistan to help it through the coronavirus crisis, saying "the authorities are committed to full transparency and reporting of resources deployed for the emergency response, including publication of quarterly reports and ex-post audits of crisis-related spending.”
Turkmenistan says it has no cases of COVID-19 and that it would be happy to invite a WHO mission to share the secrets of its success. But it keeps finding reasons not to play host, RFE/RL’s Bruce Pannier wrote on May 8: “Officials in Ashgabat are using an old trick to delay and possibly prevent the [WHO] delegation from arriving.”
On May 8, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told reporters that Turkmenistan was ready to admit a delegation of WHO experts into the country. “There are absolutely no problems here," he said. This is false. The WHO has been trying to get into Turkmenistan since at least April 23 without success.
Not a week passes now without a fresh report of public anger about food shortages in the regions. Vienna-based Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported on May 10 that the head of the Turkmenbashi district in the Dashoguz province was, while he was out inspecting cotton fields, manhandled by residents indignant at the scant supplies of subsidized flour at the local state store. People are particularly exercised that more emphasis has been placed in the area on cultivating cotton, which can be used to raise foreign currency but cannot be eaten, instead of wheat. Police eventually got involved, Chronicles reported
- State of emergency. Borders closed. Schools closed. Public transportation limited. Travel by car in cities restricted. Public Ramadan celebrations banned by fatwa.
Some 65,000 Uzbeks in Russia have asked their government for help getting home, Fergana News reported on May 14. Dozens rallied outside their consulate in St. Petersburg the day before; some were detained for violating social distancing regulations. Several hundred more gathered in Orenburg, near the Kazakh border, demanding a transit corridor so they can return home. Russia closed its borders in March.
Limited domestic train and air services will resume on May 18, authorities announced on May 15.
On May 11, the government published a 36-page list of rules for how businesses may operate and how they must be cleaned during the coronavirus crisis.
- The country has been divided into zones to indicate the level of permitted movement: red, yellow and green. In the green zone, cars can move freely without special permits and more businesses are allowed to reopen.
- Chief State Sanitary Inspector Nurmat Otabekov asked people not to wear their masks on their chins: "Remember that coronavirus does not enter the body through the chin and neck," Podrobno.uz quoted him as saying on May 12.
- A medical worker from Samarkand, failing to self-quarantine when he first became symptomatic, went on to infect 11 people, who in turn infected 23 more, Podrobno.uz reported on May 13. The regional prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation.
- The Health Ministry dispatched a team of doctors experienced in fighting COVID-19 to neighboring Tajikistan on May 8 to help with the unfolding crisis there.
Police in Tashkent have called on residents to feed pets that have been abandoned to the street during the crisis, Kun.uz reported on May 14.
Demand for gasoline fell 60 to 70 percent in April, the CEO of state oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz told S&P Global Platts on May 5.
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.
Previous coronavirus dashboards:
April 27-May 3
March 31-April 5
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