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Live Blog - 29 April 2020
29 April 2020

Our live blog on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world is on every day throughouit the month of April

This blog is compiled by our team of journalists and researchers based in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi, Georgia, working with partners and associates in a number of different countries. You can also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU. We are happy to hear from you wherever you are. Please send us your comments, stories and suggestions by email to editor@commonspace.eu

This live blog has been running daily since 19 March. You can read earlier blogs here

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Wednesday, 29 April 2020

1400 CEST (1600 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today.

From the blame game over China's role in the pandemic to the exit strategy of European countries, we can see that the virus is now nutating into a political; discussion, one that is likely to be with us for many years to come. But, as yet coronavirus remains first and foremost a health emergency, and this we should not forget.

We will be back with this live blog tomorrow Thursday, 30 April at 12.00 CEST (1400 in Tbilisi and in Dubai)

Till then from all of us in The Hague and in Tbilisi, a good evening

Be safe! be Healthy! Be Happy!

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1355 CEST (1555 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

Our last word is on China, which is where we started this blog two hours ago.

  China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for a "ceasefire" in the international blame game over the coronavirus and urged for the WHO to be given more support, which he said could save lives.Speaking at a special meeting on Monday of BRICS- the grouping of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - Wang also said China would "do whatever it can" to alleviate the debt burden on African nations and help local governments improve their capability to fight the virus.

"As a core force in coordinating global anti-pandemic cooperation, the World Health Organisation is indispensable in helping developing countries, especially the brothers and sisters in Africa," Wang said, telling his counterparts, by video link, that "supporting the WHO would save more lives and cure more patients." "Fighting a pandemic is like putting out a fire. Every minute counts when lives are at stake," he said. "The global community should never be distracted in its collaborative response by finger-pointing or the blame game, still less should we allow new tensions and divisions to be created as a result of politicisation or stigmatisation."

While China, after nearly three months of draconian measures to restrict people's movements, appears to have controlled the virus' spread, it is facing growing calls for more transparency about the origin of the disease. Politicians and media in the US, Australia, the UK, France and Germany have also called for investigations into China's mishandling of the outbreak in the early stages, though Beijing has denied any cover-up.

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1350 CEST (1550 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Finally we want to end this blog with some news from the Caucasus Region 

 Georgia

Georgia continues to report low figures. 517 cases so far and 6 deaths. 
For the first time since the outbreak of the #COVID19 pandemic, Georgia has recorded more daily recoveries than infections, ‘We have six new cases of infection and 12 recovered. This is the first time there's such a big difference between recoveries and confirmed cases', director of the Clinic of Infectious Disease Marina Ezugbaia said.

 Armenia

The total number of confirmed cases has reached 1,932. There are 30 deaths

 Azerbaijan

The number of covid 19 cases is 1717, and there have been 20 deaths

In the meantime, a hairdressing salon operating in violation of special quarantine rules was found in Sabail district.

The press service of the Interior Ministry said that during the event carried out by the Sabail District Police Office's 8th Police Department, it was found that a men's salon belonging to Amrah Ahmadov was operating illegally during quarantine in the area called 20th area. During the inspection, the owner of the facility and one customer were found and brought to the Police Department.

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1340 CEST (1540 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We cast our eyes now on the middle east. It is the first week of Ramadan - and this is proving one unlike any other. With most mosques closed the emphasis is on staying at home. Noman Ahmed of our research team takes a snap shot from across the region.

 Jordan

The World Bank will provide a $20 million package helping Jordan to respond to the health impacts of the #COVID19 outbreak. The support will aid the efforts of the Ministry of Health's efforts in preventing, detecting and responding to the threat posed by the pandemic.

"Jordan was one of the first countries in the region, if not the world, to take early and strict measures to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Wissam Rabadi said. The country has eased measures in some regions but watches carefully as many businesses returns to normal. 

 Saudi Arabia

Authorities in Saudi Arabia will improve the migrant workers housing and living conditions. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi Arabia's Madinah district has set a number of new guidelines.

 Algeria

In Algeria, a trend has defined the traditional government authoritarian practice. Radio Corona Internationale or RCI was launched and offers a mix of music, news and commentary in Arabic and French. The founder, Abdallah Benadouda, says the idea came during an online get-together with friends.

‘We were talking about music, we were exchanging ideas and I said, ‘my God, this is something we can do. Instead of just streaming music, let's create a radio show," he said.

Benadouda says that RCI does not try to criticize the government directly but still addresses sensitive subjects.

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1330 CEST (1530 Tbilisi/Dubai)

When will it all end?

First came the shock of the lockdown; then the amusement of staying at home and not having to go to work in the morning; than the boredom and tedium of being locked up in one flat or house, and soon after the worry about what sort of world we will emerge to when it is all over. How will it all end is a question billions of people are asking. William Murray does not have all the answwers but he has been able to collect the advice that WHO Europe has put out about how reversing the lockdown can look like. Read it here in this short article prepared for commonspace.eu

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1320 CEST (1520 Tbilisi/Dubai)

A bit more about those numbers we mentioned earlier. Our colleague Maximiliaan van Lange has been digging up the figures

  United States


The number of Covid-19 infections in the United States has risen to 1,012,583 and the death toll has risen to 58,350. The death toll is, therefore, higher than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). According to official figures, 58,220 American soldiers died during the war in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s.

In the meantime a second United States naval vessel at sea was hit by an outbreak of Covid-19. Aboard the USS Kidd 64 cases of Covid-19 have been identified. The naval vessel was docked in San Diego on Tuesday (18 April) for medical care and disinfection.

At the end of last month, the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt sounded the alarm about an outbreak of Covid-19 on board the naval vessel. The USS Roosevelt is docked in Guam. Covid-19 has been detected in more than 900 of the almost five thousand crewmembers

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1300 CEST (1500 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Russia


Russia confirmed 5,841 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, bringing the country's official number of cases to 99,399. Russia is now the eighth most-affected country in terms of infections, having surpassed China and Iran this week.

President Vladimir Putin has extended the national "non-working" month through May 11 as Russia continued to see sharp daily rises in new coronavirus infections in recent days. Moscow's coronavirus lockdown has also been extended until May 11.

Moscow will start constructing temporary hospitals that will hold a total of 10,000 beds for coronavirus patients, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
More updates

Russia has extended its entry ban for foreigners, which was originally set to end May 1, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said. The ban will be lifted when the coronavirus situation improves, he said.

President Vladimir Putin addressed the current crisis in a broadcast yesterday.

Losses to the Russian budget from the new extension of the non-working holiday until May 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic are estimated at an additional 1.8-2.3 trillion rubles ($24 bln-$31 bln), according to economists surveyed by Izvestia. However, it is much more important to safeguard the lives and health of the people, so the economy can be restored only later, through joint efforts, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. For a thousand years, Russia has been living with the values of mutual assistance and solidarity, and these qualities are the main pillar of our country today, he said.

"We are now facing a new, and perhaps, the most intense stage in the fight against the pandemic," the Russian leader explained. Putin warned that relying on the fact that the threat was supposedly reduced and now would definitely bypass us, would be careless. Thus, the president announced the extension of the non-working holiday until May 11. Meanwhile, he ordered the regional authorities to draw up recommendations on gradual exiting the lockdown by May 5, based on the current epidemiological situation.

 

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1240 CEST (1440 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The careful process of returning life to some sort of normality - reversing the lockdown - has started in a number of European countries. Maximiliaan van Lange of our research team has been looking at developments across the EU.

  The Netherlands

A dangerous situation has arisen on board Dutch ocean-going ships. Due to the worldwide closure of land borders and airspace, crew members are obliged to remain on board ships in different parts of the world.

In the Netherlands, the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) is arguing for the opening of a flight bridge to relieve crews onboard Dutch ocean-going ships stuck in this situation.

The KVNR reports that 12,000 crew members of Dutch ocean-going ships are currently detained worldwide.

Dutch railway company NS also reports that more intercity trains have been scheduled to operate since Wednesday (29 April). As of today, almost every Dutch station where intercity trains usually stop will have an intercity at least once an hour.

 

 Belgium

In Belgium, the economy declined sharply during the first quarter of 2020. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the country fell by 3.9 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2019.

 

 Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is extending the advice against travel for its residents, due to an increase in the number of infections and deaths in the country. The number of new Covid-19 infections has risen by 1304 to 157,641.

Since last week, measures in Germany have been eased somewhat, some shops have reopened, and several schools have also opened their doors. Residents do have to cover their mouths with a mouth mask when they go shopping or travel by public transport.


 France

The French Parliament has approved the plan of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. As a result, lockdown measures in the country will ease as of 11 May. It was also agreed to extend the state of emergency in France until 23 July. The National Assembly adopted the proposal by 368 votes to 100. 103 MPs abstained.

 

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1215 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are starting today with updates from Iran and Central Asia, compiled by Noman Ahmed of our research team 

  Iran

The Iranian government reopened the international border to resume international trade. The country has already begun opening businesses last week to revive the economy. Land-based trade is crucial for Iran which faces US economic sanctions. 

"Now, all our borders are open," Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, said on Monday. "Only the border with Turkmenistan - which has closed all its borders - remains closed."

"We are now moving to allow imports of goods and services.. . and let businessmen commute between countries," Mr Rabiei said. "In the next phase, we will allow passengers to travel with permission from the health ministry."

However one border that will not be opening soon is Iran's border with Azerbaijan. This was stated in an information bulletin from the Operational Headquarters under the Azerbaijan Cabinet of Ministers. It said

"Currently, the countries of the world continue to take measures to combat coronavirus infection. As part of the measures taken, most states have cancelled international flights as part of their decisions to close their borders.

The situation in the world in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic was analyzed, and in order to prevent the spread of the virus in the country, the restriction on exit and entry into the territory of Azerbaijan by land and air was extended until May 31, 2020, except for cargo and charter flights."

 

 Kyrgyzstan

The Deputy Prime Minister, Erkin Asrandiev, says some economic activities will be allowed before lifting the state of emergency on May 10. The sectors include all types of industrial activities, the construction sector, construction and food markets, taxi services. They have to take into account certain requirements and receive a special pass. The government expects about 20,000 requests for passes. 

  Tajikistan 

Tajikistan admits it has a "pneumonia crisis" but continues to deny any confirmed Coronavirus presence. About 319 persons were diagnosed with pneumonia in a single hospital. Out of that, 136 are medical staff. Cases are reported in four other hospitals and the critics called it a cover-up of a coronavirus outbreak. A WHO delegation is set to visit on Friday. 

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Good day and welcome back to this live blog on commonspace.eu.

It is Wednesday, 29 April 2020. It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time, equivalent to 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and in Dubai

The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage across the world.

Numbers can often be abstract and confusing, but with over 3 million cases and nearly 220,000 deaths one can start understanding the gravity of the situation. Comparisons are not always useful, but the media has been making a lot of the fact that more Americans have now died of covid 19 than during the Vietnam War. In Britain more Londoners have died than during the Blitz in World War II.

An then there is the economic cost of the massive disruption to life that countries far and wide have been experiencing.

Some have been engaging in a blame game - Who was responsible for covid-19? A lot of this conversation revolved around China.

Frankly, a blame game is not what is needed at the moment. We all need to focus on winning the battle against the virus.

But China needs to be ready to engage seriously in a discussion on how this pandemic has started, and how it could have done things differently.

The instincts of the Chinese leadership is to reject any sort of criticism. Many things have to change after the pandemic in the west, as much as elsewhere. But one thing that also needs to change is China's readiness to accept criticism, and to be more constructive and transparent  in its relations with the world.

Our cover page for today's blog is a cartoon from the newspaper South China Morning Post. This Hong Kong based newspaper prides itself on its editorial independence and its quality journalism. It is owned by the Alibaba Group, so the link with Beijing is there too. But many of the articles that it has been publishing contribute to the discussion about China in the world that will no doubt dominate the discussion in the world for years to come.

 

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