Coronavirus Crisis - Live Blog
25 March 2020

We have now come to the end of this live blog on for today.

We have been live for eleven hours with our team of researchers and journalists based in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia, and with the help of our partners and associates in different countries.

This blog is reporting on the global effort to combat coronavirus - but we are focusing particularly on Europe and Eurasia and the Middle East, with special attention to the South Caucasus region.

In this day the Olympic Games have been postponed for a year; India has told all its 1.2 billion people to stay at home; and the COVID-19 virus continued to spread with the numbers reaching close to 400,000.

We are back with our live blog tomorrow morning at 0800 Central Europpean Time (11.00 am in Tbilisi and Dubai).

Be safe! Be Healthy!, Be happy! Goodnight.

1900 CET (2200 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are coming to a close of our live blog for today. 

We want to finish with the public service announcement prepared for us today by Wll Murray

FIFA has teamed up with the World Health organisation to hammer in the important messages for combatting coronavirus

1)      Hands - 'Please wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution'

2)      Elbows - 'Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or tissue when you sneeze or cough'

3)      Face - 'Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the virus from entering your body'

4)      Distance - 'In terms of social interaction, take a step back. Stay at least one metre distance from others.'

5)      Feel - 'If you feel unwell, stay home. Please follow all instructions provided by your local health authorities.'

The key message: 


“For the first time ever, we – the entire world – are all playing on the same team. Our opponent is a disease. We need determination, discipline and teamwork to beat the coronavirus. The world of football is united and together we will win.”

You can watch the video here


1800 CET (2100 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have been taking a look at the evening data from a number of regions. Noman Ahmad from  our Research Team has been scanning various sources to give us a good picture of how things stand at the moment.

Central Asia Updates: 

 Uzbekistan:  4 new cases

 Kazakhstan: 6 new cases

 Kyrgyzstan: 26 new cases


South Caucasus: 

Azerbaijan: 15 new cases of coronavirus infection are registered in Azerbaijan. Currently 76 patients with acute coronavirus in hospitals are under medical supervision. Appropriate measures are being taken to test 2,126 people in the quarantine zones created at various hospitals.


News from the MENA Region

  • Saudi Arabia imposed a curfew, with violators facing up to 20 days jail and fines up to $2,665.
  • UAE closed public spaces, including malls, beaches, parks and restaurants. All passenger flights as of 11:59p.m. local time on March 26 for two weeks with the exception of evacuation flights
  • Egypt declares a curfew for 2 weeks starting Wednesday
  • The UN Envoy in Syria appealed for a complete and immediate nationwide cease-fire. 
  • Oman has suspended all internal and international flights as of March 29, except cargo operations and Musandam flights


Crisis Updates

Iraq: 50 new cases bringing total to 316 

Tunisia: 25 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 114

Iran: 1,762 new cases in Iran brings total to 24,811. As of this morning, 122 have died

Bahrain: 13 new cases and 1 new death

Lebanon: 37 new cases 

Saudi Arabia: 205 new cases

In the meantime, in Egypt

Egypt announced a two-week night curfew from 7 pm to 6 am to its 100 million population. The curfew will be effective from tomorrow and all kinds of transportation will be halted during the curfew. 

Up until now, Egypt, one of the region's most populous countries, has 366 confirmed cases and 21 fatalities, including two senior military officers. There are over 31,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the Middle East, the vast majority of which are in Iran.   According to the IMF, tourism was hit hard in the region as well affecting countries such as Egypt and UAE. The decreasing oil prices are putting additional strain on countries in the region. Moreover, the arrival of covid19 in the region's most tense areas such as Syria and Gaza have raised various health and humanitarian concerns 



A strange tale from Lebanon

A Lebanese taxi driver set his car on fire today on the main road leading to Beirut's airport after being fined by police for not complying with measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Taxis travelling with more than 2 passengers are subject to fines starting from 50,000 Lebanese lira (30 Euros). Over the weekend, Lebanon's military and security forces stepped up their crackdown and issued tickets on major roads. Videos that circulated on social media showed a white Renault vehicle engulfed in flames. 


1745 CET (2045 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 We have an interesting piece of news from the European Commission brought to us by our team member Maximiliaan van Lange

According to the European Commission, the Covid-19 virus pandemic has a major disruptive impact on European transport and mobility. On Monday (23 March), the Commission therefore issued new directives on the action to be taken by European Member States to ensure that freight traffic in the European Union is kept running so that supply systems continue to function. According to Commissioner Adina Vălean (Transport), a coordinated and collective approach to cross-border transport is more important today than ever before. Vălean reports that green-lane border crossings should be open to all freight vehicles, regardless of the goods they carry. Border crossings, including any checks and health checks, should not take more than 15 minutes. The green lanes were also specifically designed to protect workers in transport to the front line of this pandemic.


1530 CET (1830 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Inevitable, but still sad. No Olympic Games in 2020

The International Olympic Committee will postpone this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo until 2021 over the global coronavirus pandemic, after an official request to delay from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

Abe said that IOC chief Thomas Bach had agreed "100 percent" to the delay.


1300 CET (1600 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An update on the situation in Spain from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

 A black day for Spain. On the 10th day of the lockdown, 514 people died within 24 hours from the effects of the Covid-19 virus. The number of infections rose by 2,696. Last Monday (23 March) 462 people died within 24 hours, according to figures from the Ministry of Health


1200 noon Central European Time (1500 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  It seems that everyone and everything is being affected by the coronvirus crisis. The Dutch flowers industry has taken a major hit as millions of flowers had to be destroyed, with demand down by as much as 80%. 

Sea more on this video:




1015 CET (1315 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Another update from Georgia. The Health Authorities have just released the latest figures:

There are now 67 confirmed cases. 9 have recovered. 4055 are under quarantine, and 252 under hospital supervision.


1000 CET (1300 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The Director General of WHO - the World Health Organisation has been talking with Donald Trump


0945 CET (1245 Tbilisi/Dubai)

In the South Caucasus

Medical experts think that the situation in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will enter a critical stage in the next week or so.

Here are the updates of the situation at the moment in theb three countries based on overnight data collected by Noman Ahmad


Armenia's Prime Minister announced 41 new cases of coronavirus, making the total number of infected in Armenia 235. He further says that tougher measures are necessary to combat the infection, adding that all restaurants, cafes and public entertainment places must stop working. Nikol Pashinyan also urged people to stay at home and leave it only in case of urgent necessity.


Yesterday, 7 new cases of coronavirus infection were registered to bring the total to 61. So far, there are 72 cases of infections in Azerbaijan. Patients who have been diagnosed with coronavirus infection are placed in special-purpose hospitals and are provided with regular observation.


The number of infected persons reached 66 in Georgia. The official number of cured patients is 9 so far. (Updated figures) According to the latest data, 3320 remain under quarantine. correspondent in Tbilisi says that the country is bracing itself for a serious hike in numbers of those infected by COVID-19 in the coming days. After some initial panic following the discovery of a case in Marneuli District, which triggered the closure of two districts in Southern Georgia, the medical situation remains for the moment under control. But serious strains on the economic situation are already appearing, with a depreciation of the Georgian lari, and an increase in prices of household goods, including essential items. 


0915 CET (1215 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have not had much information of the situation in Central Asia, Noman Ahmad has been looking at the figures in three countries:


2 more cases of coronavirus infection were registered in Almaty bringing the total to 66 cases.


According to the Ministry of Health, a coronavirus infection was detected in two citizens who returned from Russia and in the wife of a passenger who arrived from Turkey. The number of citizens infected with coronavirus in the country has reached 49 people.


Two more cases of coronavirus infection have been identified in Kyrgyzstan. A total of 16 cases of coronavirus are diagnosed.


 And in the meantime more expressions of solidarity. Tbilisi City Hall was last night lit in the tricolor of the Italian flag.  


0900 CET (12 noon Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some figures from the MENA region compiled by Noman Ahmed from our research team


33 new cases of Coronavirus were diagnosed in Iraq yesterday as per the Ministry of Health and Environment. Sulaymaniyah and Erbil were hit the hardest. 

3 new deaths were recorded while 5 recovered. A curfew is implemented and enforced. 

 Saudi Arabia:

51 new cases are diagnosed in Saudi Arabia reaching a total of 562 among which 19 have recovered. 


Ministry of Public Health announced 7 new confirmed cases of coronavirus yesterday while 4 recovered.  The total number of tests conducted has reached 11384. 

Meanwhile, the Qatar Chamber has launched 'Takatuf Initiative' to mitigate the economic impacts of the precautionary measures taken by the country.  


68 cases were discharged while 39 new positive cases of newly registered coronavirus were recorded along with 5 deaths

The total number that was registered in Egypt with the new Corona virus until Monday is 366 cases, 


The cases yesterday increased to 1,442, of which 29 are in serious condition. The number of recoverees rose to 41 and they were released to their homes. In addition, the Ministry of Health has launched an application for a stay examination near Corona patients. At the same time, the Ministry is continuing to publish additional routes of the Corona patients in Israel.


The cases in Algeria increased to 230 with no deaths reported yesterday. 90% of the cases were travellers coming back from France. 


The Health Ministry announced 14 new cases had been registered out of a total of 126 tests carried out in 24 hours.

The number of confirmed cases has therefore reached 89. 

The total number of people placed in self-isolation is 14,000 of which 5,000 have completed the required period. 


0801 CET (1101 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Britain shuts down

In a televised broadcast last night British prime minister Boris Johnson confined the whole nation to their home for the next three weeks. The Sun news paper called it house arrest.



Good morning. It is Tuesday, 24 March 2020.

It is 0800 Central European Time (CET), 1100 in Tbilisi and in Dubai

We wake up again this morning to grim news from around the world as the coronavirus continues to claim human lives and disrupt the lives of billion of people. We are live with you with out team of researchers and journalists based in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia, and with the help of our partners and associates in different countries. This blog ios focusing on the global effort to combat coronavirus - but we are focusing particularly on Europe and Eurasia and the Middle East, with special attention to the South Caucasus region. We aime to give our readers a sense of what is happening in different countries, as well as to provide accurate public service information and space for discussion. 

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide have now reached 381,621 and the number of deaths is now 16,563 (These figures are based on John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resouce Centre accessed this morning)

This is the update chart of numbers of death in various jurisdictions

6,077 deaths Italy

3,160 deaths Hubei China

2,311 deaths Spain

1,812 deaths Iran

860 deaths France

335 deaths United Kingdom

213 deaths Netherlands

125 deaths New York City New York US

123 deaths Germany

120 deaths Korea, South

120 deaths Switzerland

88 deaths Belgium


1900 CET (2200 Tbilis/Dubai)

We are now closing this live blog for today. From across the world depressing news of the spread of corionavirus. But also examples of resilience, as nations, governments and individuals brace themselves for this extraordinary world emergency which has already changed our lives in way we did not think possible only a few weeks ago. will be back with this live blog tomorrow at 0800 CET (1100 Tbilisi/Dubai). In the meantime Be safe! Be healthy! Be happy! Goodnight.

1855 CET (2155 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Before we close our blog for today, our public service announcement today focuses on some additional symptomsm of coronavirus according some leading British medical experts. Will Murray discusses the issue of loss of taste and smell in this short article on, with plenty of links to reliable sources for further information. Read it here.

1845 CET (2145 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An update on the situation in the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

In Belgium, the Minister of Finance has given Alexander De Croo the green light for the douane-unie (The Customs Service) so that they can assist the federal police in border controls. More than 1,600 people are currently hospitalised in Belgium. 88 citizens have died from the virus.

 The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the new Minister for Medical Care Martin van Rijn expects the fight against the Covid-19 virus to be fiercest in the next three months. In the Netherlands, the Covid-19 virus has cost the lives of 34 people in the past twenty-four hours. According to the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) the death toll in the Netherlands now stands at 213.

The Ministry of Health today confirmed 875 cases of coronaviruses in Luxembourg. An increase of 77 infections since the last update on Sunday (22 March) with 798 infections. Today (23 March) Luxembourg entered phase 2 in the fight against the Covid-19 virus. In phase 1, four medical centres were opened in Luxembourg. Now that the country has entered Phase 2, the focus is on telecommunications. Depending on the symptoms, corona patients are directed to one of the four medical centres, new structures that are now opening their doors.


1730 CET (2030 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The European Policy Centre this evening published a commentary by Managing Editor, Dennis Sammut, on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the South Caucasus. 

"The impact of the coronavirus pandemic will require an urgent response in terms of both strategic engagement and financial support, targeting current priorities. That is what will now define the success or otherwise of the Eastern Partnership in the South Caucasus", he writes

You can read the commentary in full on the website of the EPC here 


1530 CET (1830 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An update on the situation in Spain from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.


The health care system in Spain can now hardly cope with the number of patients. In intensive care units, staff have their backs against the wall. Throughout the country 462 people have succumbed to Covid-19 virus in the past 24 hours. As a result, the number of fatalities has risen sharply in recent days to 2,182. In terms of the number of confirmed cases diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus increased the numbers rose by approximately 3,500 to 33,089.

After Italy and China, Spain has the highest number of deaths from the disease. The army was called in to set up a field hospital with 5,500 beds in a convention centre in Madrid. The capital has been hit hardest with more than 10,000 infections. Last weekend, the Spanish government tightened up the measures: the state of emergency has been extended to 11 April and most foreign travellers are banned at borders, airports and ports.

The newspaper El País reports that Spain is distributing 640 000 test kits which will enable infections to be detected quickly. It is possible that the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo has also become infected with the virus. Calvo was admitted to hospital yesterday with a respiratory infection and tested for the virus. The results are not yet known.


14.00 CET (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some updates on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)  region. Noman Ahmad from our Research Team has been monitoring the situation this morning

 Iran remains the most difficult situationIran:

Iran's death toll has increased to 1812 with 127 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

With some 1411 new cases, the country's total number of infected people has reached 23,049.

In other countries:


Egyptian state media reported the death of leading Egyptian officer this morning. The officer was engaged in a high-profile sterilization campaign against the highly contagious coronavirus throughout the weekend.

"His participation in acts combating the spread of the disease in the country",

The army units conducted sterilization and disinfection operations in Egypt's public squares, streets and vital buildings as part of state efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

Egypt has announced a total of 14 deaths due to the COVID-19 and 327 new infection cases.

The Egyptian government has taken a series of precautionary steps including the closure of educational institutions, mosques and churches, as well as a partial shutdown of coffee shops, restaurants and shopping centres, and a halt to flights to the country.


3 patients recovered and 4 are dead in Morocco according to this afternoon updates. 134 new cases are confirmed by testing.


As per the Health Ministry, 177 cases are active from which 3 are critical. Around 24968 tests were conducted in total. The government has issued regulations to all households, shops, and stores.


Kuwait announced one new case this morning, binging total cases to 189. From this number, 30 cases have recovered and 159 are recovering. 5 cases were in ICU while 702 individuals have completed the quarantine period.


This morning, 8 new cases are diagnosed in Lebanon. The Ministry of Public Health urges all individuals who do not show symptoms but are tested positive to stay home in self-quarantine. This also applies to those waiting for the results to be confirmed.




1130 CET (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)


Russia has been a bit of a mystery in the way coronavirus is affecting the country, and there has been a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories about how it is reporting the cases of the pandemic. Monday morning (23 March) Russia confirmed 71 new coronavirus infections bringing the country's official number of cases up to 438.

Moscow is changing the way it counts its coronavirus cases. Patients will now be considered positive upon a single positive test rather than having samples sent to a lab Novosibirsk, Siberia for further verification, Moscow Times reports.

This table, published by the newspaper Moscow Times, gives the official figures of how the number of cases has increased.

1045 CET (1345 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An update on the situation in Germany from Max van Lange, a member of the research team


The public health agency the Robert Koch Institute announced on Monday morning that the number of deaths had risen from 55 on Sunday to 86 on Monday.

It warned, however, that the real number was likely much higher, in part because some regional health authorities had not submitted their figures.

Separate reports from German media put the death toll at over 100.

In terms of the number of confirmed cases in the country, the Institute reported 22,672 on Monday, up from 18,610 the previous day. Yet other estimates placed the number of confirmed cases at over 26,000.

After consultations between the Federal government in Berlin and the Länder on Sunday (22 March) new measures against the virus were agreed. Individuals are not allowed to be together in public, except families and other households, in numbers exceeding 2. The rule applies for at least two weeks. Violators can be fined up to 25.000 euros.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in home quarantine since the weekend after she encountered a doctor who tested positive for the Covid-19 virus on Friday.

1000 CET (1300 Tbilisi/Dubai)

For some people it's the stockmarket; for others the figures of those infected by the virus in Italy, but for some in Britain this brings the crisis closer to them then either of these things: McDonalds is closing down all of its outlets in UK and Ireland. If you are in London, or anywhere else in the UK or Ireland you have until 7.00 pm if you want to get a Big Mac. You never know when it is going to be available again.


0930 CET (1230 Tbilisi Dubai)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula van der Leyen has been showing how to wash your hands during nthe corona pandemic. (You can sing Ode of Joy too, but that will not affect the virus)

0805 CET (1105 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Coronavirus has started taking its toll on countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Noman Ahmed from the research team of has been looking at some of the figures from the region. 


On Sunday, Kuwait's Ministry of Information Reported the following,

New Cases: 18

Total Cases: 188

Recovered: 30

ICU: 5


From February 21 until March 22, 2020, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases in accredited university hospital laboratories has reached 248 cases, an increase of 18 cases from yesterday.

However, this number is not accurate as some tested negative after being tested twice. The exact figures are not updated yet.

The Ministry of Public Health urges to take care when dealing with this disease and to commit to complete domestic quarantine pending the result of the diagnosis. It further states that any leniency in its application will expose its owner to legal and criminal prosecution.


The Ministry of Health and Environment laboratories carried out 106 new tests and confirmed 19 new cases

The total number of injuries is: 233

Total deaths: 20

Total recoveries: 57

The Ministry stresses the necessity of fully implementing the decisions of the Ministry and calls on citizens and all concerned parties to abide, as well as taking legal measures against violators.


Prime Minister of UAE, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum says education will not stop, and will continue unhindered in the country under any circumstances, 

Schools in the UAE have started e-learning last week. One million and two hundred thousand students were enrolled. 

UAE has not updated its cases and recoveries today, but an online meeting for the Cabinet took place and an additional AED 16 Billion support package to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. Some new measures include:


-       Reducing the cost of doing business

-       Supporting small businesses

-       Accelerating the implementation of major government infrastructure projects


On Sunday, Jordan recorded 13 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 112 

A will leave tomorrow Monday to Singapore to bring back medical supplies and improved testing kits.

The Minister of State for Media Affairs said that the ban could extend for several weeks, and the Minister of State for Information Affairs, said that there will be mechanisms to deliver basic materials to citizens. The mechanism will be announced as soon as they are approved, either tonight or tomorrow Monday.


The Ministry of Health confirmed 201 total cases of coronavirus while the number of deaths increased to 17 cases. In Algeria, the average mortality rate is 67 and all deaths were from chronic diseases

23 cases recovered while 340 suspected cases are awaiting the results of testing. The  Ministry also called everybody to stay at home and only one person per household to exit when necessary.


 In Israel, the government is thinking about extending daylight savings time.

 1,071 Israelis were infected by Sunday evening. The spike is due to increased tests conducted. 

 According to the Health Minister, next week, 3000 tests can be conducted per day.

 Of the 1,071 Israelis diagnosed, 985 had mild cases, 24 moderate and 18 serious cases. Around 37 people have recovered from the virus.

The government is expected to announce relief assistance for the self-employed, wage earners, businesses and households. The unemployment rate increased from 4% to 16.5% due to the virus outbreak. 


0801 CET (1101 Tbilisi/Dubai)

A quick round up of developments overnight., 

The number of people infected by the COVID-19 virus is approaching 300,000.

There has been a dramatic development in Georgia where the government has sealed off two regions in the Soputh of the country where there appears to be an outbreak of the virus. The regions - Marneuli and Bolnisi - have a largely Azerbaijani speaking population. The Geworgian Army has now put roadblocks around the two regions to stop people coming in or out.

read more on here

Elsewhere in the Caucasus region, Armenia reports that the number of cases as of this morning is 194.

Saudi Arabia has declared a curfew froom 7.00 pm to 6.00 am. The curfew will last three weeks.

Turkish Airlines, which untilrecently boast the highest number of destinations served, has cancelled all flights except those goping to New York, Addis Ababa, Moscow, Hong Kong and Washington DC. The airline explained that the five destinations were chosen to enable people to get to places where they can then join feeder flights.

Australia and Canada have announced they will not bb sending teams to the Tokyo Olympics, increasing the possibility the Games may need to be rescheduled.

Good Morning. It is Monday, 23 March 2020 - Eight o'clock Central European Time, 1100 in Tbilisi and in Dubai. We are resuming this live blog covering the coronavirus crisis in Europe, the Caucasus Region, the Middle East and beyond. This blog is brought to you by the team of journalists and researchers of in The Hague in The Netherlands, and in Tbilisi in Georgia, together with our partners and associates in different countries.



It is now 1800 Central European Time, 2100 in Tbilisi and in Dubai. We are now closing this live blog on We have been live for 12 hours since 0600 CET this morning in this day whenthe world continued to grapple with the coronavirus and its implications. Millions of Christians all over the world have adapted to new ways of praying as their churches advised social distancing. Muslims and Jews have been doing similar things on Friday and Saturday. In a very short time the world has been learning how to pray in the face of the current crisis.

More than 13,000 people have been killed so far by the virus. The numbers are likely to increase substantially as we go forward. And as the world deals with the crisis our lives change dramatically. will be back tomorrow at 0800 CET (1100 Tbilisi/Dubai) with more news, analysis and views from our dedicated team in The Hague and Tbilisi, and our partners and associates in other countries all over the world. Be safe, be healthy be happy!

1750 CET (2050 Tbilisi/Dubai)

And finally a reminder to everyone to stay safe. has been running public service announcements to make our readers and subscribers better prepared for the coronacrisis we are all in. Will Murray has been scanning the web for the best practices. Today he helps us to understand how to avoid panic buying, and how not to fall for the many scams that are out there in this time. read it here Be safe, be healthy, be happy!

1745 CET (2045 Tbilis/Dubai)

For many of you who like sports one of the concerns has been what is going to happen to the Tokyo Olympics. We all were looking forward so much to do. The Olympic Flame arrived this week, but to an empty stadium. What are the options. Maximiliaan van Lange has been looking into that for us.

 The International Olympic Committee (IOC)is considering what a rescheduling of the Games would cost. More and more international sports associations and athletes want the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer to be postponed because of the Covid-19 virus. IOC president Thomas Bach said last Saturday (22 March) that everything is being done to allow the Games to go ahead, but it seems that the IOC is now working on alternative scenarios.

According to some sources an alternative scenario is being investigated in which the Games are postponed for one month, but the possibility of holding the sporting event one or two years later is also being considered. Another scenario being considered is holding the games without spectators.

The Tokyo organizing committee has so far maintained that the Games can continue as planned this summer begining on July 24th.

The Olympic Games were last organised in Tokyo in 1964.

1530 CET (1830 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

We want to summarise again the data of COVID-19 cases in the Caucasus, with some additional information coming this afternoon from Azerbaijan:

In Armenia 190 cases have been confirmed, an increase of 30 cases since yesterday. Two patients have recovered. There have been no deaths reported in Armenia since the outbreak of the pandemic.

In Georgia the number of reported cases has now reached 54. 1 patient is recovering. The government says there are 1966 un quarantine and 259 people are hospitalised.

In Azerbaijan the number of reported cases has risen by 12 in the last 24 hours and now stands also at 54.

In the wider region,

Russia confirmed 61 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the country's official number of cases up to 367.

Turkey is reporting that a total of 21 people have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus, while the number of confirmed cases jumped to 947.

In Iran, Fars News Agency is reporting that the Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that the number of coronavirus patients in the country has increased to 21,638 after diagnosis of 1,028 new cases, adding that the death toll has increased to 1,685 after 129 more patients lost their lives in the last 24 hours.


1400 CET (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

To keep on our theme of response of Churches to coronavirus, here is an update about the attitude of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Bulgaria's main Orthodox Church urged Christians on Saturday to stay away from churches and pray at home as the Balkan country tightens restrictive measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

As of Saturday, the country had 142 cases, with three deaths.

The Orthodox Church, which was reluctant to stop church services a week ago, now urged Christians to observe the restrictions while the country's state of emergency lasts.

"This is not a refusal of worship, but an internal sacrifice made to keep the healthy and the other worshippers," Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora, a senior Church leader, said in a televised address.


1345 CET (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Our team working on this blog in The Hague got reminded of the seriousness of the situation this morning when an emergency text went out on all mobile phones in The Netherlands reminding people to keep a distance from each other. 

1330 CET (1630 Tbilisi/Dubai)

At this point we would like to bring you a summary of the situation in Europe, compiled by Maximiliaan van Lange, from the research team


The Spanish media reports that the Spanish government has extended the state of emergency by two weeks from next weekend. The current measures will remain in force until then. After Italy, Spain is the worst affected European country by the corona crisis. According to the latest figures, 1326 people have died as a result of the virus.


The French National Assembly voted on Sunday (22 March), for an emergency law to give the government special powers to implement measures in the struggle against the Covid-19 virus. The Ministry of Health reportws that France currently has 14,459 diagnosed infections, the death toll has risen to 450. Over 5,200 people are infected in the hospital, almost 1,300 of whom are in the intensive care unit.


Chancellor Angela Merkel's German government is planning an economic aid package worth 822 billion euros to prevent companies from going under during the Covid-19 virus crisis.. Merkel said in a press conference on Wednesday (11 March) that there is a chance that 60 to 70 percent of the German population will be infected with the virus. At that time, Germany had 3 victims and 1300 infections of the virus. On Saturday (21 March) the number of registered infections rose to 16,662 in Germany.

The number of deaths due to the virus in Germany is remarkably lower than in the surrounding European member states. The main reason seems to be the intensive number of tests carried out in Germany - 160,000 people are tested per week, which is more than the total of other European member states. 


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stated on Saturday evening (21 March) that all non-essential businesses in Italy must close their doors until 3 April, with the exception of businesses providing essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, postal services and banks. In addition to supermarkets, pharmacies, postal services and banks, transport will also be guaranteed, said Conte. The Italian Government is expected to issue an emergency decree on Sunday (22 March) to give immediate effect to the measures.

The vice president of the Chinese Red Cross Sun Shuopeng criticized Italy last Friday (20 March) in a press conference in Milan for not taking sufficient measures to tackle the Covid-19 virus.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment reports that the death toll in the Netherlands Saturday (21 March) rose to 136 victims. So far, 836 people in the Netherlands had to be hospitalized because of Covid-19 virus. Despite the calls of the Dutch government to keep 1,5 meter distance from each other and to stay inside, many Dutch people went out on Saturday (March 21). Several seaside resorts have called on day-trippers not to come en masse and teams of doctors and nurses ask people to stay inside. As a reaction to this, Amsterdam is taking extra measures Sunday (March 22nd) against crowds at markets. In comparison with other European member states, a lock-down situation does not apply in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, church services have been cancelled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. The seven Dutch dioceses Sunday (22 March) are jointly organising a special online so-called 'circle of prayer' that will be broadcast on TV.


Since Wednesday (18 March) Belgium is in a lock-down situation. Sunday (22 March), the Belgian Institute of Public Health reports 586 newly diagnosed infections. In Belgium, the number of confirmed Covid-19 virus infections has risen to 3,401. Most of the Covid-19 virus infections are in Flanders: 2,040 cases, compared to 853 in Wallonia and 405 in Brussels.  The location of 103 other persons is unknown.

At a European Union level, the President of the European Council Charles Michel made a plea on Sunday (22 March) to give the European Union more power to manage the coronavirus crises. Michel spoke for the creation of a 'European Crisis Centre'. According to Michel, a European Crisis Centre does not exist, but is crucial to give the Europe Union more resources and more tools to manage crises.




1300 CET (1600 Tbilis/Dubai)

On this blog today we are trying to assess the way Christian Churches and other denominations around the world are coping with the coronavirus. Most Churches have suspended services with the participation of congregations, although in some countries churches are open for individuals to pray in if they want.

Perhaps the most visible change can be seen in Rome, where the Pope normally delivers his lunchtime prayer to a crowd of tens of thousands of people in St Peter;'s Square. Today the square was empty, and the pope spoke to a camera in the Vatican Library. He announced two initiatives, one invoked Christians of all denominations all over the world to join him on Wednesday at 1200 so that together at the same time they may recite the Lord's Prayer. This is a symbolic ecumenical act, and it will be interesting to see how Orthodox and Anglican Churches, and others, will respond. In a second initiative, the Pope called on Catholics to join together virtually on Friday, at 1800, when he will give his Papal Blessing, Urbi et Orbi, which for many Catholics has huge symbolism, and which is noimrally given in Easter and Christmas. It is clear that the Pope is trying to reach out through the modern means of communication to keep the Christian community, and especially Catholics together in these difficult days.

We have also covered the story of the message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church, also reminding us that life goes on.

From the Orthoidox Churches there are somewhat mixed messages. This could be seen this morning from a somewhat confused reaction coming out from the Georgian Orthodox Church, that has not stopped Church services, and has not even changed the practices of communion which some consider highly risky to contagious transmission. 

Ofcourse Christians are not the only believers who have had to grapple with the challenges of the time. In Egypt 100,000 mosques have been closed by a decision of the government, and thisd includes the religious centre of Al Azhar where prayers have been suspended. This appears also to be the trend in most Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia where prayers in Mosques have been suspended excepot in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

One has to say that these are not easy decisions for the world religious leaders, but the extent to which traditions dating back centuries, if not millenia, have had to be stopped, indicates the gravity of the situation


1150 CET (1450 Tbilisi/Dubai)

This morning we reported about the Mass of Pope Francis in Rome. Vatican Radio has a report on the event. You can listen to it on

Vatican Radio

The Pope will shortly make another virtual appearance, this time from the Sacra Biblioteca of the Vatican to lead the midday prayer, the Angelus. Normally this is tdone in the balcone of Piazza San Pietro in front of tens of thousands of people. Today the Pope will be alone.

You can watch it live on Vatican Media

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And news of some Franco-German Solidarity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic

French patients from the region of Alsace Lorraine are transported to a German Clinic for treatment see it

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We have this morning been looking at how different countries and different faiths are dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Today is Sunday, which for practising Christians is a day of prayer.

In Britain all Church services are cancelled. But the Archbishop of Caterbury, the Head of the Anglican community,has been addressing the community in a special service broadcast on 39 BBC radio stations across the country

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said we should remind ourselves that "life carries on and that there is much to celebrate in our communities" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

He said in the special virtual Sunday service that the UK is drawn between the need to "keep life going" and "the necessary imposed isolation that we face".

He began the service by reflecting on the "strange and difficult time in the life of our world".

Archbishop Welby concluded: "Today we are separated in space but we are still worshipping together before God."


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Figures released this morning indicate that more than 13,000 have died across the world as a result of the COVID-19 virus, and 300,000 people have been infected. 82,000 people have recovered.

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We mentioned earlier the situation with regards to the Georgian Church, where it is understood there has been some resistance tio changing the liturgy procedures in view of the coronavirus. Churches this morning however appeared to be empty. These screengrabs from TV Maestro show nearly empty scenes in what are usually crowded Sunday services.



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This is a touching story from the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National about a Palestinian couple who got married yesterday in Betlehem:

The Palestinian bride wore a long white dress, but with a matching face mask and gloves to protect against the novel coronavirus.

As the COVID-19 illness sweeps the globe, public events have been cancelled in droves, including many weddings. Those seeking to plough ahead with their nuptials have had to radically alter their plans.

Baraa Amarneh and her fiance, Imad Sharaf, decided to carry on with their wedding, despite the bride coming from Bethlehem, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the West Bank.

Almost all of the 48 COVID-19 cases among Palestinians have been in the Bethlehem area.

The couple's wedding had been planned months in advance.

The ceremony was supposed to include dozens of guests, but in the end, the bride and groom were flanked by just a few family members each, standing at a safe distance.

"The conditions and the spread of the virus meant we had to marry without guests and without anyone except my family and the bride's family," Sharaf said.

As Amarneh has left the locked down area and is therefore considered at risk of having contracted the disease, she will now have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Sharaf said that wouldn't be a problem, treating it as a staycation honeymoon.

"We are talking about 14 days. I would stay in quarantine with my wife a month or more."

The city of Bethlehem has been under lockdown, with no one allowed in or out without a permit, for more than two weeks.

Sharaf, 25, who comes from a village near Hebron, around 20 kilometres south of Bethlehem, had to get special government permission to enter the city to pick up Amarneh and bring her to his hometown for the wedding on Friday.


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We have the morning figures for coronavirus infections released by some national health authorties this morning

In Armenia 190 cases have been confirmed, an increase of 30 cases since yesterday. Two patients have recovered. There have been no deaths reported in Armenia since the oputbreak of the pandemic.

In Georgia the number oof reported cases has now reached 54. 1 patient is recovering. The government says there are 1966 un quarantine and 259 people are hospitalised.

In Azerbaijan the last data we have is from yesterday, when nine new cases were reported. The government says that it has 42 cases of people hospitalised because of coronavirus.

In Iran, the situation is more serious, Iranian Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced on Saturday that the number of coronavirus patients in the country has increased to 20,610, adding that 1,556 people have died so far.
"Based on laboratory results and findings, 966 new cases of infection to COVID-19 virus have been identified in the country since Friday noon," Jahanpour said on Saturday.

He added that the number of infected people has raised to 20,610, noting that 123 patients have passed away in the past 24 hours, increasing the toll to 1,556.

"Fortunately, 7,635 COVID-19 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals and the number is growing every day," Jahanpour said.

Authorities in Gaza confirmed the first two cases of novel coronavirus on Sunday, identifying the individuals as Palestinians who had traveled to Pakistan and were held in quarantine on their return.


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At Vatican City, Pope Francis has just entered the Chapel in the House of St Martha to perform mass

You can watch live on Vatican Media

The Pope started the mass remembering those who are dying because of coronavirus without their friends and families with them. It is a mass without a congregation, a sign of the times we live in.

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There is controversy in Georgia over how the Goergian Orthodox Church is adapting to the current cornavirus crisis. Georgia yesterday declared a state of emergency, which means gatherings of more than ten people are banned. It is not clear how this will effect Church services. We will be following this story throughout the day


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Egypt closes 100,000 mosques and hundreds of coptic Churches

Egypt on Saturday ordered mosques and churches to shut their doors to worshippers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, after calls for the government to follow steps taken by neighboring countries. The country reported nine new coronavirus cases and two fatalities on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement, bringing the totals to 294 confirmed infections and 10 deaths.

Many on social media had criticized the government for not cancelling weekly Friday prayers and masses at which worshippers crowd into mosques and churches.

The Ministry of Islamic Endowments said it would shut all mosques for two weeks "for the necessity of preserving souls", but will allow them to broadcast prayer calls through loudspeakers. In another statement, the ministry stressed that mosques will not open during the closure even for funeral prayers, adding such sermons should be done in open areas.

Egypt has more than 100,000 mosques. Al-Azhar, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim authority, said it would shut its historic mosque in old Cairo starting from Saturday "for the safety of worshippers, and until the end of the coronavirus epidemic".On March 15, Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars said that governments had the right to shut mosques "to protect people from the coronavirus".

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church on Saturday ordered all its churches to shut their doors and suspend masses for two weeks over coronavirus fears, it said in a statement. The church also banned visits to monasteries and closed condolences halls attached to churches. Each parish will name only one church for funeral prayers and the sermons will be restricted to the family of the deceased. Christians represent around 10% of Egypt's population of 100 million, according to unofficial estimates. The vast majority of the country's Christians are orthodox. The Coptic Catholic Church followed the same approach‮‮ ‬‬and ordered its followers on Saturday to pray at home until further notice. Its churches will open their doors for funeral prayers only, which will be restricted to family members.

source: with Reuters


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It is appropriate that we should start our blog with a look at what is going on in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is a major religious centre for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Leaders of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial, urged worshippers on Saturday to maintain social distancing to help fight the coronavirus. They called on visitors to "avoid any act of devotion that might include physical contact such as touching and kissing the stones, touching icons, vestments and the personnel."

In a statement, the church said worshippers should not enter in groups of more than 10 and ought to maintain a distance of at least two meters between each other.

"The Holy Sepulchre is the ultimate place of hope. Hope that faith will defeat doubt, light will defeat darkness and life will triumph over death," the statement added.

With the usually busy Easter holiday approaching, the coronavirus crisis has led to a sharp decline in the number of visitors to the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a particular favorite among pilgrims and tourists. Other sacred sites have ordered similar precautions, including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, revered as Jesus's birthplace, the Church of the Nativity has shut down entirely.

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, has limited Friday prayers to the open outdoor areas of the mosque compound - one of the most sensitive spots in the Middle East - which Muslims refer to as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews call the Temple Mount.

At the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism where Jews are allowed to pray, religious authorities have instructed the faithful to refrain from holding mass prayers and from kissing the stones of the ancient wall which abuts the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary complex.

Israel has reported 883 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date and one death. The Palestinians have confirmed 52 cases in the occupied West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip.

Source: with Reuters


  • Goodmonring it is Sunday, 22 March 2020

It is 0600 Central European Time (CET), and 0900 in Tbilisi and Dubai

We are resuming this live blog covering the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on people and societies across the world. Today we are focusing on people of faith in Europe and worldwide are having to adapt to the way they practise their religion. On this Sunday we look at how Christian Churchs are reacting to this crisis, and we will look at developments in other faiths too. The live blog is delivered by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands, and Tbilisi, in Georgia.

We are happy to hear from our readers and subscribers about their views of the content of this blog and our website generally, or to let us know of their own experiences in the present crisis. Please email us at editor" You can also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU



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We are now closing this blog for today, Saturday 21 March 2020. During the day we had bad news about a spike in deaths in Italy and Spain as a result of coronavirus; in Georgia a state of emergency has been declared for one month, and we also saw an increase in cases reproted in Saudi Arabia. Across Europe and the Middle East the news has been equally dismal. This live blog will be back tomorrow at 0600 CET (0900 Tbilis/Dubai) Tomorrow we will focus on how the Christian Churches in Europe are reacting to the crisis, with reports from, Vatican City, London, Moscow, Tbilisi and Istanbul.

Before we leave we want to remind you to look after yourselves in these difficult times.

Please read this Public Service Announcement, compiled by our colleague Will Murray, on how to recognise the signs of COVID-19 virus, and how to prevent its spread

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Very bad news from Italy -793 people have died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours

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We continue our live blog covering the coronavirus crisis, daily starting at 0600 CET. Tomorrow Sunday we focus on how the Christian Churches across Europe are dealing with the pandemic with reports from Vatican City, London, Moscow, Tbilisi and Istanbul

You can also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU

1600 CET (1900 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have an update from Saudi Arabia where the number of confirmed cases has risen to 392

The Saudi Ministry of Health on Saturday announced 48 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

It followed the announcement of 70 new cases on Friday, eleven of the whom were identified as they flew back to the Kingdom from Morocco, India, Jordan, the Philippines, The UK, the UAE and Switzerland. They were taken directly from the airports to hospitals where they were placed in quarantine.

Saturday's announcement means the total number of cases in the Kingdom has reached 392. Also on Saturday, eight new recoveries were announced, meaning 16 people in Saudi Arabia have recovered from the virus.nother COVID-19 case was diagnosed at a medical practice in Riyadh. The remaining 58 cases involved patients who had contact with people who previously tested positive, in some cases at social events such as weddings, funerals or family gatherings.

Forty-nine of the Friday's cases were in Riyadh, 11 in Jeddah, two in Makkah, and one each in Madinah, Dammam, Dhahran, Qatif, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Bisha and Hafr Al-Batin, the ministry said.

1500 CET (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are getting worrisome news from Spain where the situation appears to have deteriorated overnight. Maximiliaan van Lange from our Research Team has been keeping an eye on the situation.

The Ministry of Health in Spain reported today that the number of Covid-19 virus infections has reached almost 25,000, whilst the number of reported deaths now exceeds 1,300. Globally, Spain is the fourth most severely affected country, with almost 25,000 Covid-19 virus infections, after Italy, China and Iran. More than 300 fatalities were registered from Friday to Saturday. Spain saw an increase of more than 5000 cases in confirmed Covid-19 virus infections from Friday to Saturday. The possibility of a total ban of air travel to and from Spain is now being considered.

Spain on Friday (20 March) closed all hotels and campsites in the country to prevent further spread of the Covid-19 virus.

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Georgia has become the second country in the South Caucasus to declare a State of Emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis. This was announced a few minutes ago by prime minister Giorgi Gakharia during a press briefing. The emergency is expected to last until 21 April, unless extended. Armenia declared a State of Emergency on 16 March.

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This has been a dramatic week in Europe, with countries struggling to develop their response to the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy and society. Maximiliaan van Lange from the research team sums up the response:

The goal of the European member states is the same: to stop the spread of the covid-19 virus. French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez call the fight against the virus a war. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the virus the greatest challenge since the Second World War. The Dutch King Willem-Alexander called it a battle against the loneliness virus.

In Eastern Europe, the Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) are trying to create an alliance in the fight against the virus. The cooperation between the countries does not always run smoothly. For example, Poland obliges corona patients to report by means of an app and if the authorities have not heard for a long time, the police come by.

In Western Europe, the cooperation between the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) is not effective. The Belgian authorities have closed the borders for non-essential visits to the country. Fuel in Belgium is considerably cheaper than in the Netherlands, which means that many people living in nearby areas often cross the border fill up their cars, something which they now cannot do.

Within the European Union, European government leaders discuss new drastic measures to combat the virus every week via a video link. Because of the spread of the virus, European government leaders watch carefully the work of the European Commission and the European Central Bank. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen regularly reassures that Brussels is coordinating everything. The measures taken by the European Central Bank to inject 750 billion euros into the economy have had an immediate effect in recent days. European member states were able to borrow more cheaply, due to falling interest rates.

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For those self-isolating at home with their husband or wife, here is awarning from China on some unexpcted side effects - divorce

Apart from an awful coronavirus outbreak, China has now witnessed a peculiar case where divorce rates have risen tremendously after couples spent more time together in isolation due to the virus. Registrar offices across China have stated that divorce rates in the country have risen significantly as couples are spending too much time together at home during coronavirus self-isolation. Lu Shijun, the manager of a marriage registry in Dazhou, Sichuan Province of south-western China revealed that 300 couples have scheduled appointments for divorce since 24th February.

Lu Shijun stated that the divorce rate in the district has soared compared to the time before the coronavirus outbreak. He added that young people are spending alot of time at home, which might lead to heated arguments between them because of petty reasons, causing them to rush for a divorce. However, another reason for the sharp increase in divorce requests can be due to the council offices closing for nearly a month during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marriage registration offices Xi'an of Shaanxi Province in north-western China has witnessed an unprecedented rise of divorce appointments since reopening on 1st March. According to a registration officer, one office received 14 divorce requests in a day, hitting the upper limit set by the local council. The number of divorce appointments has been adjusted to include 10 couples a day by the Officials in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of southern China, to accommodate the overwhelming amount of requests.

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An update from Georgia, the Health authorities are saying that the number of cases as of this morning is 47.

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We know have the figures from Armenia of COVID-19 cases. The Ministry of Health one hour ago said now report 160 cases. There have been no reported deaths in Armenia so far.

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King Wilhelm-Alexander of The Netherlands made a national address on television yesterday evening. He thanked the people working in the emergency services, and more widely to keep the community safe and active in these difficult times

‘2020 will be the year that all of us will remember, Everyone will have their own experiences and go through it in a different way. But I hope and I expect that the feeling of togetherness and pride will continue to draw us together throughout these difficult times'. the King said.


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Perhaps it is good to start by thinking of the tens of thousands of medical staff who have been working overnight across the world. Here are some images from German hospitals of medical staff reassuring the people they will be there if they are needed.

Good morning. It is Saturday, 21 March 2020

0600 CET, 0900 in Tbilisi and Dubai.

We are restarting this live blog focusing on the Coronavirus pandemic and its consequences

European countries continue locking down in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19; Britain has closed all pubs and restaurants; The streets of many European capitals are deserted; The Director General of the WHO has warned young people not to think they are immune since many coronavirus victims are under 50


Welcome to today's live blog on the Coronavirus pandemic and its implications brought to you by the team of based in The Hague in The Netherlands and in Tbilisi, Georgia.

19.15 CET (22.15 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We want to remind you of our public service announcements to help you beat the coronavirus pandemic in your home and in your community. They are compiled daily by our colleague William Murray. This one tells you how to wash your hands and clean your mobile phone.

Read it here

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Azerbaijan has said workers in many government departments and agencies should stay home until 29 April

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For those who still had any doubts how serious the situation is: Britiain is closing all pubs 

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Updates from across Europe 

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander will address the nation at 19:00 about the corona crisis. State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol wrote on Friday (20 March) in a letter to the Parliament that the Netherlands would shut down all immigration until at least 6 April because of the COVID-19 virus.


In Germany, confusion has arisen about the Dutch coronavirus policy. German politicians in the border regions expressed their concerns in a letter to Chancellor Merkel and the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet.  Some German politicians are calling for the closure of the Dutch-German border, for fear of further spread. In Germany, the number of confirmed COVID-19 virus infections rose by 2,958 to 13,957. Most of the corona infections, 3000, have been reported in the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia. This is followed by the region of Baden-Württenber with infections 2155 and Bavaria with infections 1692.


In Belgium, this Friday (20 March) 837 people were admitted to hospital. Belgium currently has 37 dead. Brussels South Charleroi Airport has announced that it will close its passenger terminal from Tuesday (24 March) until 5 April.


Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reported on Friday (20 March) that he was working on the repatriation of French citizens abroad. Worldwide there are 130,000 French people who need to be repatriated.


The Ministry of Health reports that the number of victims and coronavirus infections is rising rapidly in Spain. Today (20 March) the number of deaths reported has reached 1,002 deaths. That is 235 more victims than yesterday. The number of corona infections rose from 17,147 Thursday (19 March) to 19,980 Friday (20 March). More than 10,000 people are in hospital, 1,114 of whom are in intensive care.


The Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz extended the strict anti coronavirus measures in Austria for three weeks until 13 April. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had one message: "Brace yourselves, we have to stick to the measures.".

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Conte calls for European "firepower"

There is an increasing realisation that Coronavirus is as much an economic crisis as it is a health crisis.

This morning Italian prime mimnister Conte called on the EU to use all "its full firepower" to deal with the economic dimension of the crisis. Read more on Euroactiv here


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For those of you who cannot follow on line we are putting updates on twitter @commonspaceEU

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A subtle rebuke this morning for Mr You-Know-Who by EU High Representative Josep Borrell


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One hour ago 160 radio stations across Europe played the tune "You'll never walk alone" by Gerry and the Pacemakers in a show of solidarity. The idea came from The Netherlands from Dutch Radio presenter Sander Hoogendoorn. We will probably see many more of these kind of spontaneous initiatives in the coming days, weeks and months. But in the meantime you can also join in by listening to the song on you tube here

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We now have the latest figures from Armenia of infections, according to information released by the Ministry of Health at 1000 am local time (0700 CET). The authorities are reporting 14 new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) bringing the total of cases to 136. 1 patient has recovered; We also have the figures from Georgia: It now reports 43 cases; there are 1575 people in quarantine and 275 in inpatient care. 1 out of 43 people has recovered.


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A thank you from European Council president Charles Michel to those on the front line in combatting coronavirus


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Today is the first day of the Nowruz Holiday - a spring festival widely celebrated in Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.  It is also the first day of the Persian New Year. We wish a happy Nowruz holiday to all our readers in these countries.

Nowruz coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar and the International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on February 23, 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

Iranians welcome the New Year by wearing new clothes and setting the Haft Seen, a table containing seven items starting with the letter 'S'; Sabzeh (freshly grown greens), Samanu (sweet wheat paste), Senjed (jujube), Seeb (apple), Seer (garlic), Serkeh (vinegar) and Somaq (sumac).

This year the holiday is being marked under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic which in Iran has already claimed 1284 lives.

However, yesterday evening a rainbow appeared over Iran, and Press TV sees this as a sign

Good Morning. It is 0600 CET (0900 Tbilisi/Dubai) on Friday, 20 March 2020. Welcome to today's live blog on the Coronavirus pandemic and its implications brought to you by the team of based in The Hague in The Netherlands and in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The overnight figures continue to provide a depressing picture, with 233,026 cases of COVID-19 virus infection now confirmed worldwide. There are 9,827 deaths, although 85,757 have recovered.(These figures are based on WHO data and are constantly updated)

The crisis continues to effect the global economy. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that a global recession "perhaps of record dimensions", was a near certainty.

  • In Europe, the number of deaths in Italy has now outstripped those in mainland China, as the continent becomes the new epicentre of the crisis. 3405 people have died in Italy since February 21, 427 in the last twenty four hours.In Britain Queen Elizabeth II has issued a message to the nation to work as one, saying that the country was entering "a period of great concern asnd uncertainty". The message came as the Monarch moved from Buckingham Palace in Central London to Windsor Castle.
  • In the South Caucasus, the president of Azerbaijan has issued new instructions on how to combat the epidemic, allocating 1 billion  Azerbaijani Manats to addressing the medical, social and economic consequences of the epidemic. In Georgia, prime minister Giorgi Gaharia chaired a special meeting of the country's National Security Council on Thursday evening. All shops except pharmacies and grocery shops are closed.
  • In the Gulf region, leaders have made public statements rallying their nations. King Salman of Saudi Arabia urged citizens to work together to fight the pandemic. The Kingdom has now suspended internal flights and trains for two weeks; in the United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed issued a video appeal assuring Emiratis that the country had the resources to combat the pandemic and its effects. UAE has stopped all travel, except for Emiratis returning home.
  • Shopping Malls and shops have now been closed in Egypt, Iran and Algeria. In Jordan, the Army has sealed off the capital, Amman.
  • In Central Asia celebrations for this year's Nowruz Holiday have been called off.




19 March 2020 -  "Virus diplomacy" as Gulf states reach out to Iran; Michel Barnier and Prince Albert II of Monaco diagnosed positive with coronavirus; Russian disinformation in the age of corona


"Virus diplomacy", or solidarity when it is really needed.

We reported earlier at what appears to be a worsening situation in Iran. Iran today reported a sharp 15% spike in coronavirus deaths overnight, saying 147 people had died from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. Iran reported that its official death toll from coronavirus was 1,135, and the total number of confirmed cases at 17,361. Some experts believe the actual numbers of those afflicted in Iran may be higher. Iran's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, said today that 43 people contract coronavirus in Iran per hour, and three infected people die every hour.

Gulf countries, who do not all have always good relations with Iran, have been extending their solidarity in what some are describing as "virus diplomacy". We now hear that the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar have reached out to Iran to provide humanitarian assistance to help it combat coronavirus. 

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) praised the UAE and its de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, for a second humanitarian airlift to Iran this week of medical equipment, gloves and surgical masks to combat the respiratory disease.

"Thanks #UAE and @MohamedBinZayed for your continuing support to the #COVID19 response," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Tuesday. "Solidarity among international communities is of the utmost necessity."

Kuwait's foreign minister, in a phone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday, offered Iran $10 million to fight COVID-19.

Qatar said Sunday that it was sending medical aid to Iran, including 6 tons of medical equipment and supplies, Gulf News reported .



And here is some data from the Netherlands. The number of cases  has reached 2460, and there are 76 deaths.


Russian Disinformation

There are already some reactions from politicians to this breaking story about Russian disinformation connected with the coronavirus. This tweet from Kati Piri of the S and D Group in the Parliament sums it up.


Prince Albert II of Monaco has Coronavirus

The Royal Palace in Monaco has just announced that the head of state, Prince Albert II has coronavirus but is in good health.

Luxembourg says four have died of Covid-19, and it has 300 cases of infection

Luxembourg has been in a state of emergency since Tuesday (17 March). The government of the Grand Duchy, which is one of the smallest EU member states, says that it is dealing with 300 cases of coronavirus. Four people have died as a consequences of the virus. From Monday (23 March) it will no longer be possible to fly to Luxembourg, confirmed Deputy Prime Minister François Bausch during a press conference earlier today.


Michel Barnier has coronavirus

The Chief EU Negotiator for Brexit announced this himself this morning. We wish him a speedy recovery

Not good news from Iran, which remains badly hit by Coronavirus


And in the town of Betlehem

The town of Betlehem evokes feelings and emotions for millions of Chriustians throughout the world as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The town is not spared the tribulations of the moment.

In this photo, a member of the Palestinian security forces applies antiseptic gel to his hands while being assisted to wear a protective suit before delivering food supplies to a hotel under quarantine due to COVID-19 in Beit Jala, Bethlehem.

An update from some European countries

The COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly in Europe. Here is a look at the situation in some EU countries

Since Wednesday afternoon (18 March) Belgium is in a lock down situation. Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès had one message: citizens should stay at home and all non-essential shops are closed. Today (19 March), Belgium has 309 newly diagnosed infections, more than 634 Belgians are in hospital with the COVID-19 virus. The Belgian National Crisis Centre reports today (19 March) that gites, campsites, bed and breakfasts must close immediately.

The Netherlands
The Netherlands currently has 2051 cases of coronavirus, confirmed by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. 58 people have died from the consequences of the virus. Prime Minister Mark Rutte opts for 'maximum control' of the virus so that the system of intensive care does not become clogged up. For the time being, there is no lock-down situation in the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the lockdown measures in Italy beyond 6 April on Thursday (19 March). The Italian government is working on a billion-euro package for healthcare and to support the Italian economy.

European Armies prepare to go to war - against coronavirus

Only a few weeks ago, it would have been unthinkable that the German Army, the Bundeswehr,  should be playing an active part in the domestic life of the German nation. But these are not normal times, and the German army has been put on standby to deploy in support of the police and the civilian authorities to help combat the coronavirus, amid an epidemic that could put civilian authorities under unprecedented strain and severely disrupt the eurozone's largest economy. 

In an interview, carried by the Financial Times, German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the army would be used to help treat the sick, resolve transport bottlenecks and provide essential support to police and local authorities as infection rates climb.

"We have called on all reservists, especially those with medical experience, to register with us," she told the Financial Times. "We are providing healthcare professionals wherever they are needed.

"If we have transport problems, because so many truck-drivers are held up at the borders and are no longer available, the Bundeswehr has vehicles and drivers who can take on the work to supply the population."

Her comments reflect growing concerns in Berlin about the havoc the coronavirus could wreak on Germany's normally smooth-running bureaucracy, essential services and industrial supply chains. There are fears that infection rates could soon climb to the alarming levels seen in Italy and Spain, the FT said.

The use of the Bundeswehr on the home front is highly contentious in Germany, a legacy of the country's dark 20th century history. Germany's constitution puts strict limits on any domestic deployments by the armed forces.Now, the Bundeswehr is calling on all reservist nurses, emergency paramedics and laboratory assistants in its 20,000-strong medical service to register for work. They will be deployed to the army's five hospitals, which are increasing capacity and switching to treating civilians as Germany's health system gears up for a flood of corona patients.

The authorities in Berlin have also called on the Bundeswehr to help set up a hospital for up to 1,000 Covid-19 patients on the grounds of the city's main exhibition centre.

Germany is not the only country that is using its army to help deal with the crisis. On the same day he said that France was at "war" and ordered a sweeping lockdown of the country, President Emmanuel Macron announced that the French armed forces would set up a field hospital for 30 patients in the eastern region of Alsace, home to one of the largest clusters of corona infection.

The French defence ministry also announced on Wednesday that a specially equipped Air Force A330 would evacuate six coronavirus patients in intensive care from an overcrowded hospital in Mulhouse to two army hospitals in the south of the country for treatment.

In Italy, too, the military establishment is mobilising to help tackle the country's coronavirus crisis. A plant run by the defence ministry in Naples is producing 100,000 face masks a day, while a military pharmaceutical plant in Florence is churning out 2,000 litres of disinfectant a day. Italy has deployed army technicians to help the country's only manufacturer of ventilators, Siare Engineering, ramp up production.



OSCE suspends monitoring on Armenia-Azerbaijan border and Karabakh conflict zone

This statement was released this morning by Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE):

The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, has issued the following statement:

“The ongoing situation following the spread of COVID-19 has led to the closure of international borders throughout the region, travel restrictions for international and local staff, as well as restrictions put in place to avoid face-to-face contact to reduce the risk of infection. In view of the above, and following consultations with the sides, monitoring exercises will be suspended until these restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, I continue to be in contact with the relevant military authorities.”

Georgians say thank you to medical staff

An emotional moment in Georgia on Wednesday night around 21.00 when Georgians stopped their activities to applaud the efforts of the medical staff combatting the Coronavirus crisis. Organised spontaneously on social media the action allowed people to express theirn appreciation for the work of health sector staff. Overnight the number of confirmed Covid-19 virus infection in Georgia has reached 40, but is expected to spike in the coming days

You may see more on this video on the commonspace youtube channel here

__________ in the age of corona - A message from the editorial team in response to the global pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus is adapting in response to the current global crisis. This is a message issued yesterday by our editorial team:

Dear readers and subscribers,

Since it was established in 2011, has been contributing to the public debate in and about the Caucasus region and the region's relations with Europe, focusing primarily on the need for peace in the region, on the value of co-operation, and on strengthening the relations between the countries of the region and Europe. Those ideas and values will always remain at the core of our work.

However the events of the last few weeks and months have taken humanity to uncharted waters. The coronavirus crisis caused by the spread of the Covid-19 virus is a major global emergency - a pandemic on a size not seen in modern times. Its effect on countries and societies has already been unprecedented, and the pandemic has already caused major disruptions to the way of life of people that no one could have anticipated only a few weeks ago. This disruption is likely to increase in the coming days, weeks and months. It is now almost a certainty that the current medical crisis will soon expand into an economic crisis, and that in turn will have deep-rooted social and political consequences.

In the present circumstances therefore, will focus on the crisis by providing factual information enabling our readers and subscribers to get a better understanding of what is going on, not only in their own countries but more widely. We will focus on the medical, economic and political aspects of the crisis, and the response of individual states and the international community. will remain loyal to its ethos as a public service. We will have messages that will help educate and inform the general public; we will give a voice to those that are often not heard enough; we will support a collaborative approach to resolving the crisis and its many effects through institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, the G20 and others; we will maintain a focus on the wider Caucasus region but will also cover stories in nearby regions, especially Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

In these challenging times we recognise the need to step up and refocus. We believe humanity has the strength and the resilience to overcome the present crisis, and that a better world can emerge from it, and we will contribute as much as we can towards that.

Stay safe, be well, and help each other. This is the time for solidarity.

The editorial team of

18 March 2020

Welcome to this new live blog

Welcome to the launch of this live blog on In response to the dramatic events surrounding the coronavirus crisis we are launching this live blog as a space for sharing information and analysis on the unfolding developments surrounding the coronavirus crisis in its different dimensions



Добро пожаловать в эфир нашего Live-блога Добро пожаловать в эфир нашего Live-блога на В ответ на драматические события, связанные с кризисом коронавируса, мы запускаем этот live blog в качестве площадки для обмена информацией и анализа разворачивающихся событий, связанных с кризисом коронавируса, в его различных измерениях.