Live Blog
29 March 2020

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


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We are now pausing this blog for today.

It has been another day of horrific figures of deaths and disuptions around the world. In Italy the number of deaths from coronavirus has now exceeded 10,000.

We have also again been hearing and reporting stories of altruism and solidarity as people, communities and nations come together. But we are only in the begining of this struggle. There are many months ahead and much work and much suffering yet before the victory against this pandemic can be declared.

Our team at, based in The Hague and in Tbilisi, will be back with this live blog tomorrow Monday, 30 March 2020 from 1200-1400 Central European Summer Timne (CEST), 1400 - 1800 in Tbilisi and Dubai.

Till then! Be safe! Be healthy! be Happy! Goodnight


Our public service announcement for today is simple, urgent and vital: Unless you have good reason not to, 


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  And here is a further update from the Netherlands from Maximiliaan van Lange: According to figures from the National Intensive Care Evaluation Foundation, around 14.00 hours (European time) 972 of those diagnosed with the virus in the Netherlands were in intensive care. That is an increase of 136 ICU patients in the past 24 hours. The Netherlands is getting ready for a peak in the pandemic next week, which has led to cooperation with hospitals in Germany.

Today (March 29th), Germany received for the first time Dutch patients in Munster. It concerns two patients who were in the Isala hospital in Zwolle, reports the regional broadcaster RTV Oost. They have moved to Germany to free up beds for the expected peak next week.


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  We started this blog by reminding of the heavy death toll in Italy as a result of coronavirus. More than 10000 have died in the last weeks.

Yet we know the Italian people are very reseilient. One song that sums up the Italian spirit is Totto Cutugno's classic L'Italiano Vero. Please listen to it and enjoy it (click the picture for the video on youtube)


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 In the United Kingdom, the number of people who died of coronavirus in the last twenty four hours has rised by 209, and now stands at 1,228. Yesterday an official from NHS England said at a government briefing that the country will be lucky if only 20,000 die during the pandemic. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove speaking on BBC TV this morning siad the country had to be ready for a long period of shut down.

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  Our team in the Hague has an update on the situation in The Netherlands where there has been another increase in the death toll.

The death toll in the Netherlands has risen by 132 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total up to 771. The population in The Netherlands is around 17 million. That puts the netherlands in third place, after italy and Spain, with the highest number of deaths per head of population.

The total number of cases has also risen by 1,104 to a total of 10,866.  

Officials in the Netherlands have recalled hundreds of thousands of protective masks, which were imported from China and distributed to hospitals, because they don't meet quality standards.

The Dutch Health Ministry told AFP news agency that 1.3 million masks were delivered on 21 March. About 600,000 of the masks had already been distributed to healthcare workers.

"The rest of the shipment was immediately put on hold and has not been distributed," the ministry said in a statement.

The problem was either that the masks didn't close over the face properly, or were fitted with defective filters.



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Noman Ahmed has this story from the North Caucasus


A local initiative has sprung up in Khasavyurt, in Northern Dagestan, handing out free food for those in need. Food prices have risen across Russia due to the coronavirus crisis. similar initiatives have been organised elsewhere, including in a shopping centre in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, which is distributing bread free of charge.



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Armenia's Education Ministry has called for people to donate used computers for students and teachers across the country who do not own or have access to them. The Ministry published what conditions used computers should be in for people who want to donate. According to the Ministry, 10% of teachers and students do not have computer access to take part in distance learning programmes being initiated throughout the country. There is a need for approximately 21,000 computers in the regions outside of Yerevan. Check the Facebook announcement here 

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 Back to Italy, where the scale of the quarantine restrictions is huge.

Italian police have from 12 -28 March checked more than three million people and one and half million businesses in their efforts to maintain the quarantine regime.


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We have been trying to keep an eye on the situation in Central Asia. Noman Ahmed has this on Kyrgistan


In Talas oblast, organizations and private entrepreneurs distributed 1 sack of flour and 25 kg of rice to 227 low-income families. In addition, 47,200 masks, 497 disposable overalls, 40 reusable overalls, 280 pairs of gloves, 850 liters of antiseptics and 100 pairs of rubber boots were handed over to employees who are on duty.

Meanwhile, a restaurant has fed migrants waiting for flights to their homeland. "Let us show that the epidemic did not touch us in its worst sense and did not turn us into savages!", says the restaurateur.

See the post here regarding the help provided by the restaurant. 


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Terrible news from Spain where the overnight death figures from coronavirus was 838.- the highest daily rise in fatalities so far.

It brings the number of deaths from the virus to 6,528.

The total number of those infected rose to 78,797 from 72,248


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We are dedicating this blog today to the people of Italy. And the government there now sees light in the end of the tunnel. The Italian Deputy Health Minister has told the BBC that they are now confident that the pandemic will peak there in the next ten days. But the government is not taking chances, and will be extending the lockdown which was due to expire on 3 April.


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There are now 2.5 billion people - one third of humanity -  currently under some kind of lockdown. 

The thought of that is mind boggling.

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  In Belgium, the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, but growth rate is slowly slowing down. Will there be a second wave of patients? Maximiliaan van Lange looked at the new statistics from Belgium.

78 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours as a result of the virus, the highest number of deaths in a day since the outbreak of the virus in the country. The number of newly infected cases was 1,702 in the last 24 hours. In Belgium, more and more people are also hospitalised. In the past 24 hours, 629 new corona patients were admitted to hospitals. This brings the total to 4,138 occupied hospital beds in Belgium. The total number of confirmed infections in Belgium has gone above 10,000 for the first time.

On Friday (27 March), the government of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès extended the lock-down measures by two weeks until Monday 20 April. In addition, the government has tightened enforcement in Belgium.


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Some good news. The wife of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie. has now been declared fully recovered after having been infected with the virus. 

It is important to remember that most people recover from the virus. The number of those who have recovered so far now stands at  146,294.


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Some updates now from the MENA region, compiled by Noman Ahmed  of our Research Team


Inmates fled from a prison in Saqqez city in Iran's province of Kurdistan. They were able to flee after a riot erupted amid the concerns about the virus outbreak. See this video: 

 United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai charities have donated $14.15 million as part of the country's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. Meanwhile, rent payments in Dubai have been postponed for up to six months. 

The country has also launched drive-through coronavirus test  Moreover, the UAE helped Germany repatriate tourists amid coronavirus travel bans. A total of 329 of tourists - mostly German and a Romanian, Croatian, Kosovan, two Turks and three Polish - departed on two flights on March 28. Earlier, FlyDubai transported UK nationals back home. 

Check this video from the Emirates News Agency here 


The Omani government decided to repatriate 800 citizens from Canada and the US amid coronavirus concerns. 

 A statement by its Washington embassy said: 

  "We have contacted several domestic and international airlines operating in US and Canada. After discussing several options, we have agreed with a commercial airline to operate two of its flights to Oman with about 800 citizens on Monday, March 30, 2020," 

Middle East 

Governments in the Middle East have zero tolerance for rumour mongers amid the coronavirus pandemic, warning people of prosecution and hefty fines.  They described the behavior "As dangerous as the virus" 

In Egypt, Imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of around $1,200 could be imposed,  

In Oman, a punishment carries a three years jail term and a fine of up to $7,700.

The Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution have made arrests relating to coronavirus rumour mongering in the Kingdom, 

Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE adopted similar measures. 



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We have some updates from across the South Caucasus compiled by our teams in The Hague and in Tbilisi


Armenia currently reports 432 cases and three deaths

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the Russian Federation has decided to close all its borders and that decision had raised certain concerns among businesses that it will have an effect on cargo transits. The Prime Minister assured that the decision will in no way affect the cargo coming in and out. He also thanked all citizens abiding by the restrictions. You can check the video here:


The figures from Georgia this morning were 90 cases. 4717 are in quarantine. But the Health authorities warn that they could not find the source of three cases, and therefore it is likely that now the disease will spread much faster in the coming days.

We are also monitoring the situation in South Ossetia where the  de facto aurthorities of the self-declared republic have announced a quarantine to fight the spread of the coronavirus due to last until 12 April. The measures enacted include closing all places of business and sports establishments, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. All foreign citizens, including Russians, have been banned from entering. If as one assumes this includes persons from North Ossetia, this will be a truly significant moment for the territory.


The latest figures from Azerbaijan is 182 cases and 4 deaths. The country is also bracing itself for worst to come. President Aliyev yesterday spoke about the crisis and its impact and said that it has brought Azerbaijanis together like never before. Read more on here


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The news about the spread of the coronavirus across the world is also grim. The number of cases world-wide has reached 668,111, whilst the number of deaths is now 31,016.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has tested positive for the virus and is in quarantine in his flat at 10 Downing Street has warned the British people that the worst is yet to come, and that the government may have to introduce even more stringent measures to contain the pandemic.

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Last night we had the sombering news that the death toll from coronavirus in Italy had reached 10,023. We stand in solidarity with the people of Italy in these difficult times and we dedicate today's blog to all those in Italy who are affected by the crisis or are active in responding to it.

We are therefore starting this blog with a lively rendition of the Italian National Anthem. (click the flag)



Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians) is the Italian national anthem. It is best known among Italians as Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn), after the author of the lyrics, or Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), from its opening line. The words were written in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli, in a climate of popular struggle for unification and independence of Italy which foreshadowed the war against Austria. Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades.


Welcome to

It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time, 1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai, on Sunday, 29 March 2020.

Summer time started this morning, so those living in countries that operate daylight saving time should remember to adjust their watches.


We are resuming our live blog on the coronavirus crisis brought to you by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia



1600 CET (1900 Tbilisi/Dubai) 

We are now pausing this live blog for today Saturday. We will be back tomorrow Sunday, 29 March at 12 noon Central European Time, 1500 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai. live blog on the coronavirus crisis is brought to you by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia. You can also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU.  Please send us any comments, or your views and stories to In the mean time Be safe! Be healthy! Be happy! Goodnight


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And to end our live blog for today we thought we share with you this story from the Netherlands.

  The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra has put together a rendition of Ode to Joy with the nineteen members playing separetely from their homes where they are self isolating. A video has already been shared widely. We are seeing many initiatives by artists and performers all over the world and we will bring you some of thse stories on this live blog in the coming days.

Listen to the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra here

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It is the end of the week - perhaps one of the most momentous weeks for mankind this century. Our public information announcement for today, prepared as usual by our colleague William Murray, reminds us what the coronvirus is, and how it functions. Know your enemy! read more here


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The impact of coronavirus on our way of life is huge. Now we understand that one other product that may all of sudden become unavailable because of the way the disease has disrupted the supply chain are condoms. Reuters TV has the story on their video here


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We are already noticeing that there is an element of coronavirus diplomacy going on, with countries with long standing disputes reaching out to each other in this difficult time. We hope to see much more of this.

   The UAE newspaper The National reports of a phone conversation between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the president of Syria, Bashar al Assad

Sheikh Mohamed told the Syrian leader their countries needed to "place humanitarian solidarity over political issues during this common challenge we are all facing," said the report by the UAE state news agency Wam.

Syria "will not be left alone during these delicate and critical circumstances", Wam quoted him as telling Mr Al Assad.

The UAE's outreach is despite a cooling of relations with Syria since an uprising against Mr Al Assad's rule sparked a civil war that is now in its 10th year. The UAE, which backed opposition groups earlier in the conflict, reopened its Damascus embassy in December 2018 as Mr Al Assad's government reasserted control over most of the country.

Syria has reported only five cases of the novel coronavirus infection, far fewer than most countries in the region, but there are fears that the large number of displaced civilians living in crowded camps and the government's limited healthcare resources could lead to a rapid spread of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.


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We are trying to build a picture of what is happening in the unrecognised entities in the South Caucasus, where the specific status creates its own dynamic in this crisis too.

Noman Ahmed has this update from Abkhazia, where the authorties have now declared a state of emergency

Some 100 people, including children, have marched for 15 kilometres in procession as #coronavirus spreads through the region yesterday.

While the population was urged to stay home, they took to the streets with crosses in their hands to march from Sukhumi Cathedral to a church in the village of Kaman, a place that is considered sacred in Abkhazia. The head of the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia, Vissarion Aplia, blessed the procession but did not participate in it.

While social media users were critical, a local supporter said that "There is no need to close the church. Non-believers and people of little faith do not go there anyway, and patients with a temperature sit at home."

You can watch the video of the procession on Jam News  here


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  An update from Saudi Arabia by Noman Ahmed

Students in Saudi Arabia will shift to online learning next week. An estimated 6 million are expected to follow classes via a new platform. Students were offered five options for distance learning available any time and place. King Abdulaziz University (KAU) launched an initiative to provide computers for students in need. More than 1,000 students applied, and the first batch of devices was already distributed.



  But unfortunately a less upbeat update from Lebanon

Medics in Lebanon described "horror movie" scenes as they treat #COVID-19 patients. Here are some quotes

"We usually treat pneumonia with antibiotics, but we are unable to treat the pneumonia resulting from the coronavirus."

"the war experience was less dangerous despite all its horrors. We used to treat patients knowing that they will not transmit anything to us or to others."

"doctors are worried about transmitting the virus to their parents as there is no guaranteed protection. We are treating our patients through the phone and only receive emergency cases in our clinics, while also leaving a free half an hour between the appointments for sterilization purposes."

A supervising nurse working at a Beirut hospital said that there is a shortage of sterilizers. Nurses are scared and some do not wish to work unless proper protection is provided.


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  Formula 1 to the rescureIn the United Kingdom the construction of the F1 racing cars has come to a standstill.

Manufacturers are urgently changing their focus to produce the much needed inhalers that are in short supply and are needed in the intensive care units due to the pandemic. In the UK, on 16 March, the government had called on companies to help produce inhalers for the National Health Service. Seven England-based Formula 1 teams are helping under the name 'Project Pitlane'. Among the teams participating are Red Bull Racing, the team of Max Verstappen, and Mercedes.


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    In Georgia there has by and large, been praise for the way the heath authorities have been handling the medical side of the coronavirus. Georgia has so far reported no fatalities and the number of cases is in double figures. But dealing with the economic fallout is already proving challenging. The National Bank of Georgia has been intervening to propo up the mnational currency, the Lari, which has depreciated by 20% in the last two weeks. Yesterday it intervened again buying 80 USD million, and, for the moment, this seems to be working with the currency regaining some of its lost value. Georgia has a number of standby arrnangements with the international financial institutions just for this contingency, but these have their limitations too, so everyone is hoping that what yesterday's intervention is enough. Difficult to say in the current circumstances.

The International School of Economics (ISET), a Tbilisi-based economic policy think-tank released a report about the government handling of the crisis. ISET suggests that "it is the role of the fiscal stimulus and, where possible, the monetary policy to help soften the economic shock."

Under the worst scenario, Georgia's real GDP growth may slow down to 0,82 % (assuming a 5 % baseline) in 2020. The weak currency will affect the consumer market as sources of income are expected to decline. Georgia lacks a broad social safety net infrastructure. The needs of a sizable informal workforce also need to be addressed.

You can read the full report here

In the meantime, a group of Georgians have created a Facebook campaign to crowdfund to pay the utility bills of socially vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis. The group has paid the bills of 12 families since launching last Thursday. The group can be visited here


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   Turkey has seen a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours,  COVID-19 patients now number  5,698, with 92 total deaths.

Maximiliaan van Lange and Noman Ahmed from our research team have been following the situation there. Read more on commonsapce,eu here


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Noman Ahmed reviews the current situation in Central Asia

Some of wealthy businessmen in Central Asia have pitched to fight the novel #coronavirus. The virus is starting to spread in developing countries. Businessmen have witnessed the damage the disease has inflicted upon western governments.

  Nursultan Nazarbayev, the powerful former president of Kazakhstan has already warned of a "perfect storm" due to a potential sudden collapse of oil prices and other shocks triggered by the virus. He called for the creation of a fund to fight the virus. Since the region's wealthy have been contributing. Funds would go towards test kits and medical supplies. The fund has collected over $40 million in total. Given high levels of corruption in Kazakhstan, many citizens will feel such sums are being recycled at best.

 Uzbekistan has also announced a state-led anti-crisis fund of more than $1 billion.

 Kyrgyzstan's government, which has requested and received emergency budget support from the International Monetary Fund, has also created a fund for public contributions to fight the virus.

In Kyrgyzstan, women suspected of spreading fakes about coronavirus were detained by police in Chui region. According to police, women spread reports on WhatsApp that there are people infected with coronavirus in the Panfilov district. The police are investigating the cases.

Kyrgyzstan enforces curfew time and violators are arrested. Yesterday, 157 violators were detained in Bishkek while 39 were arrested in Osh region.
The prime minister addressed the county urging citizens to stay home for their own safety. He urged warehouse sellers not to inflate prices.

Local authorities have denied passes to the public, including some officials. Only medical workers are allowed to pass during the curfew.

Meanwhile, migrant workers stuck at the airport appealed to the president to let them out. You can watch the video here:


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Some updates from the MENA region collated by Noman Ahmed

  • Number continues to rise in Israel. Total cases are now 3,460 with an additional 425 diagnosed today.

• Iran also suffers from an increase in both fatalities and new patients. As of last night, there are a total of 32,964 patients and a total of 1,995 deaths.

GCC, Egypt and North Africa witnessed steady spikes with average figures compared to the week, with Saudi Arabia reaching 1100 cases. Many countries are enforcing lockdowns or movement restrictions besides closure of all major public areas, stores and educational facilities.

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  In the United States, doctors and nurses are calling for more protective equipment to deal with the expected waves of COVID-19 patients. The number of corona infections in the United States has risen to 100,000, with more than 1,500 deaths. The media is describing the metropolis of New York "a second Wuhan". Maximiliaan van Lange looks at the new measures announced last night by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

US President Trump signed the law providing  $2,200 billion support package for the US economy, including $500 billion for the US aviation industry, $100 billion for the national health system and many provisions to help individual citizens. Millions of Americans are thus entitled to government support and benefits. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the United States, many citizens have lost their jobs, due to the closure of non-essential companies. In addition to the two package, President Trump has taken two important measures to limit the damage caused by the pandemic in the United States.

Defense Production Act

The White House also announced Friday that the United States will make use of the Defense Production Act, a law from the period of the Korean War (1950-1953). The Defense Production Act obliges companies, now including car manufacturer General Motors, to manufacture respiratory equipment for hospitals. The memorandum signed last Friday by President Donald Trump now forces General Motors to accept a contract to manufacture the equipment and start production immediately.

Decree calling for military reservists

Trump signed another decree on Friday (27 March) that makes it possible to call in military reservists to help fight the pandemic. The Ministers of Homeland Security and Defence are authorized to call in reservists from the army, navy and air force. Coastguard reservists may also be called in. The decree states that reservists can be called up for active service for a maximum of two years. The number of reservists called in may not exceed 1 million.


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  Pope Frances, leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics, last nigh made a dramatic solo appearance in an empty Piazza San Pietro in the Vatican to give the blessing Urbi et orbi

You can watch the moment on Reuters TV


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In the South Caucasus, governments remain actively engaged with the process of containing the spread of the virus. The number of cases remain relatively low, although it is likely they will increase soon. Georgia reports 85 cases and no deaths; Azerbaijan 165 cases and 3 deaths; Armenia and 1 death.

In Armenia there have been two confirmed reports in the Army. 4641 people are in quarantine in Georgia, and Azerbaijan has just announced that members of its volleyball team have been quarantined

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As usual, we start first with the sobering news of the spread of coronavirus across the world. The latest figures we have show that the number of infections now stands at 613,829, whilst 28,229 deaths are now reported. One sixth of the cases are now in the United States, where 1704 people have died. But fatalities in the European Union continue to rise too, 9134 in Italy, 5690 in Spain, 1995 in France and 546 in the Netherlands as of now, but we expect these figures to rise throughout the day. The virus continues to spread at worrying rates also in Iran and Turkey


Welcome to
It is 12 noon Central European Time, 15.00 in Tbilisi and Dubai, on Saturday 28 March 2020.

We are resuming our live blog on the coronavirus crisis brought to you by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia


Welcome to

It is 12 noon Central European Time, 15.00 in Tbilisi and Dubai, on Saturday 28 March 2020.


We are resuming our live blog on the coronavirus crisis brought to you by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in Georgia

1600 CET (1900 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this live blog on The world is adjusting to the new realities of the coronavirus. Governments are counting the costs that the crisis will have on their economies. But no one is immune. British prim,e minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the virus and is self isolating. team of journalists and researchers will be back tomorrow Saturday at 12 noon Central European Time (1500 in Tbilisi and Dubai) when we will resume this live blog.

Until then, be safe! be healthy! be happy! Good night!


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In today's public service announcement, Will Murray says that for many the worst from the coronavirus crisis is yet to come. "It's now more important than ever that we continue to follow guidelines set out by the WHO and our local medical authorities to 'flatten the curve', preventing our medical services from becoming overwhelmed".

read more here


1530 CET (1830 Tbilisi/Dubai) supports this message from UNHCR. Read more about coronavirus and refugees


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We have an update on the situation in Iran prepared by Noman Ahmed

   The latest figures from Iran are as follows: There are 2926 new cases; the total number reported is 32,332; There have been 2378 deaths

The Iranian army has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in Tehran as the country battles the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, state TV reported.

The new facility, with three units and several isolation wards was set up in just 48 hours. The hospital has been handed over to medical staff and will begin receiving patients next week.

Iranian officials continue to insist that they have the outbreak under control despite concerns that it is overwhelming the country's health service.



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Europe has so far taken the biggest brunt of the coronavirus crisis. Maximiliaan van Lange has been looking at the long term impact of the crisis on the EU, but particularly Italy and Spain, where the virus has, so far, hit hardest.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Europe has two thirds of all reported corona deaths worldwide, and half of all confirmed infections. This is evident from the most recent overview of ECDC, the European organization that tries to prevent and combat diseases. The data, updated until Thursday morning (26 March) showed 467,000 infections worldwide, of which more than 232,000 are in the European Union, Great Britain and some other European countries. Of the nearly 21,000 people who died of the COVID-19 virus around the world, almost 14,000 were in Europe. The major hot spots in the European Union are Italy and Spain.


The BBC reported on Thursday that Italy fears another corona outbreak, but in the south of the country. The north, especially the Lombardy region, was severely affected by the COVID-19 virus, but it now appears to be slowing down its spread in this region. According to the Italian statistics bureau, the economic confidence of Italian companies and consumers in Italy is falling due to government measures to combat the pandemic. According to the statistical office, there is a "crash" in the country. The Italian economy, the third largest in the Eurozone, is expected to enter a severe recession this year due to the crisis. The Ministry of Finance expects a contraction of more than 3 percent. Italian think-tank Prometeia on Friday forecasted an economic contraction in Italy in 2020 of 6.5 percent. US investment bank Goldman Sachs fears that there may even be a downturn of more than 11 percent. 

On Tuesday, March 31, the flags will drop at half-mast in all Italian municipalities and a minute's silence will be observed at noon. In an initiative led by the province of Bergamo, the northern Italian region most severely affected by the COVID-19 virus.


Economic experts in Spain say that the pandemic will cause an economic slowdown with incalculable consequences. The depth of a possible crisis depends on how long the pandemic lasts, and what measures the government takes to limit losses. Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez asked European countries for a European Marshall Plan for Spain.

The European heads of government discussed the fight against the pandemic, and the state of the European economy after the pandemic in terms reminiscent of war.

Northern Europe will have to come to the rescue of Southern Europe in solidarity. Countries such as the Netherlands and Germany benefit greatly from the internal market and, to a lesser extent, the euro. Therefore, they should be generous.


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    Breaking News

British prime minister Boris Johnson has tested positive with coronavirus. His symptoms appear mild, but he is self-isolating

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Much has already been said about the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. The three countries of the South Caucasus are likely to be very negatively impacted.

 The situation has already affected the Georgian currency, the Lari, which has depreciated in light of the #coronavirus crisis. The Lari hit 3.46 to the US dollar yesterday, down 20 percent from two weeks earlier.

Most pensioners in Georgia primarily rely on their children for support. Monthly pensions are declining in value amidst an economic shutdown.

"If they [the government] don't do anything, soon the lari will become a pretty piece of paper you can frame and put on the wall,"

"My daughter had to close her beauty parlor. My son-in-law worked as a car mechanic and his shop is closed too. Pensions in this country were always a joke, but now I'm the only one in my family with any income," A 72-year-old pensioner said.

To avert a crisis, the National Bank of Georgia sold a total of $100 million this month but the currency continued its depreciation.

The crisis also saw an initial hike in the price of essential commodities. The government moved decisively to control the price of goods, and the situation over the last days has been stable.


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 We now have news of the first coronavirus case in the Republic of Daghestan in the Russian North Caucasus.This from TASS news agency

"The first case has been confirmed. A confirmation of the positive test for the coronavirus has come from Rospotrebnadzor's Anti-Plague Center in Moscow," the regional branch reported. A Dagestani lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus. The patient was earlier taken to the republican infectious disease center, Rospotrebnadzor said.


1000 CET (1300 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 We have not been talking much about Turkey in this blog. Initially Turkey was not reporting any COVID-19 cases, but that appears now to be changing swiftly and the government is putting throgh stringent measures. All citizens over 65 are confined to their homes, and people are being encouraged to pursue social distancing - not an easy thing to do in a metropolis such as Istanbul. Noman Ahmad has been monitoring the situation for us. Here is his report:

There has been a sharp increase in cases in the last 24 hours with 1196 new cases bringing the total number of cases  to 3629 and total deaths 75.

Private polls showed that a significant proportion of the young Turkish population fears losing employment are more concerned about unemployment than the virus itself. Istanbul's historical Grand Bazaar, employing more than 20,000, has been completely closed as part of the counter-pandemic measures.

Most respondents also believe that the current preventative measures are likely to last for some time. An economics professor at Koc University says that "the government should first aim to minimize the social isolation period by considering a complete lockdown".

A nationwide curfew has not yet been declared in Turkey, but Turks travelling on the metro appear to be keeping their distance from each other (picture)

0930 CET (1230 Tbilisi/Dubai)

In these difficult times we still see that criminals try to abuse the situation to benefit from the suffering of others.

 Europol, the European Union's Police organisation has just issued a report on the situation with some useful advice.

read it here


0805 CET (1105 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The overnight data shows us that more than half a million people have now been infected by coronavirus world wide - 532,788, and the number of deaths has now reached 24,077, The largest number of cases is now in the United States with 85,991 cases (These figures are based on the John Hopkins University data.)

We start this morning with a look at the situation in the South Caucasus.

 The latest data from Georgia is as follows:

There are now 81 confirmed cases, 13 have recovered and 4505 are in quarantine. The country has had no deaths yet from coronavirus.

 Armenia now reports 329 cases - 39 new cases since yesterday.

So in both countries we are seeing a small increase every day.

 The situation appears to be turning more serious in Azerbaijan where officials have been warning that there may be an increase in the numbers.

A taskforce has been established chaired by prime minister Ali Asadov to deal with the crisis. A spokesperson for the taskforce last night told AzTV that the country may be on a trajectory similar to Spain. "The number of infected has increased in one day. The virus was detected today in 29 people. But the most dangerous thing is that the rate of infection exceeds the rate of recovery. Despite the fact that the number of infected people was 122, only 15 were cured. Such dynamics were in Spain. There, too, the infection went exponentially. The Spanish health system could not cope with this. Therefore, we must not allow this to happen."

Ibrahim Mammadov appeared dissatisfied with the way people were responding to the rules that had been established for self-isolation, and suggested that the measures now may need to be enforced more decisively.

There have also been reports of Azerbaijanis stuck in airports not being able to return home. However the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia has categorically denied that there are Azerbaijanis stuck at Moscow airports. The President's Foreign Affairs advisor said that the government was preparing to receive 400 people from abroad. Regular flights in and out of the country are all but stopped, but the state airline Azal is keeping some flights to Moscow and London to give a lifeline to those with urgent need to travel.



Good Morning, it is Friday, 27 March 2020

It is 0800 in the morning Central European Time (CET); 1100 in the morning in Tbilisi and Dubai.

Welcome to this live blog on Today we will be with you until 1600 CET with live updates on the coronavirus brought to you by our team of experts and journalists in The Hague and in Tbilisi



19.00 CET (2200 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now closing this blog for today. It has been another momentous day, with leaders of the G20 economies promising to spend 5 trillion dollars to fight coronavirus, but with the disease still spreading and killing people all over the world.

Weare back tomorrow at 0800 CET (1100 Tbilisi)

Till then! Be safe! Be healthy! be Happy! Goodnight

1855 CET 2145 Tbilsi/Dubai

A final thought for today from the Middle East where young militants who have spent all their lives fighting, now hang their guns  to fight Coronavirus. A short report from Noman Ahmed read it here  on There is or in this story on the Jerusalem Post 


1845 CET 2145 Tbilisi/Dubai

For our public service announcement for today Will Murray advises on how we can keep ourselves nourished as we are self-isolating, although the advise is probably relevant for students in all circumstances. Here is what he has to say:

Whilst staying at home for a week or two is manageable and even a welcome break from the normal hustle and bustle of the 21st century, it will not so easy in the long term. In order to keep us in high spirits and willingly compliant with the clear-but-demanding instructions of our experts and leaders, we must seek positive and productive ways to occupy ourselves.

 Over the last month, chefs and foodies have rallied to promote cooking as a constructive use of our abundant time at home. With all the stress and negativity of the current period, it is a good time to hone our culinary skills as a form of both self-improvement and relaxation.

 If you are looking to get started, Twitter is a treasure-trove of gastronomic inspiration. British Chef Nigella Lawson has popularised the hashtag #RecipeOfTheDay, inspiring exciting contributions from home cooks across the globe. For those less familiar with the kitchen, Youtube is a great way to get started – whether learning the basics or perfecting the art of a traditional Pasta Carbonara.

 Cooking also provides an opportunity to expand our horizons and experience other cultures. For those craving the flavours of South Caucasus, why not have a go at homemade Khinkali dumplings, Armenian Lavash Bread or Azeri Dolma? Or as springtime arrives in the northern hemisphere, you could light up the BBQ and experiment with Turkish Adana Kebabs or Cypriot Souvla. The website Taste Atlas is a great resource for those looking to try new and unfamiliar cultural delicacies  without leaving the house.

 Whilst the current crisis provides a lot of economic uncertainty, it’s important to emphasise that cooking good food doesn’t have to be expensive. The internet is a bountiful resource, and apps such as SuperCook can help you to be creative with the ingredients already in your cupboard. 

Bon Apetit!



1825 CET  (2130 Tbilisi /Dubai)

 There are reports of another death in Azerbaijan, and 29 new positive cases


1820 CET (2120 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Armenia reports its first fastality, and coronavirus reaches the army

Three soldiers in the army have tested positive for COVID-19 in Armenia. This comes as no surprise as many soldiers are in daily contact with civilians. Results are pending for 32 other soldiers. Meanwhile, the country witnessed its first death, a patient who was in intensive care. Rigorous contact tracing has been done and all affected individuals have been isolated in a special facility, where they are regularly monitored. There are currently 290 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Armenia, with 18 recoveries.


1815 CET 2115 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some figures from the MENA region, and some observations on the economic impact of the crisis assembled for us by Noman Ahmad

Iran: 2,389 new cases, total of 29,406, total deaths 2,234      

Israel: 297 new cases, total of 2,666, total deaths 8 

Saudi Arabia: 112 new cases, total of 1,012, total deaths 3

 Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa and Central Asia are witnessing average figures to those of this week. 

The crisis is impactung the economic situation throughout the region

• Measures to contain the pandemic's spread are hurting key job-rich sectors such as tourism. Many workers are employed by the private sector. The effects are likely to be harsh if unemployment rises and wages and remittances fall. Production and manufacturing are also being disrupted and investment plans put on hold. These adverse shocks are leading to a plunge in consumer confidence.
• The region's oil exporters are affected by lower commodity prices. Lower exports receipts will weaken external positions and reduce revenue, putting pressure on government budgets. Oil importers, on the other hand, will likely be affected by second-round effects, including lower remittance inflows and weaker demand for goods and services from the rest of the region.
• A tightening in financial conditions could prove to be a major challenge, given the region's estimated $35 billion in maturing external sovereign debt in 2020.

1800 CET 2100 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

Maximiliaan van Lange has an this update from China

Reuters news agency reports on measures announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China that as of 28 March the country will be closed to all foreigners, including those with a valid visa. An exception is only made for diplomats and other officials. China has immediately ordered airlines to significantly reduce the number of inbound and outbound flights out of concern that foreign travellers might rekindle the outbreak of the coronavirus, which paralysed the country for two months. Chinese airlines will then only be allowed to operate one connection a week abroad. Foreign airlines will only be allowed to fly to China once a week. Moreover, all these flights will only be allowed to be 75% full.


1630 CET (1930 Tbilisi/Dubai)

G20 Statement

So the extraordinary virtual summit of the G20 nations is now over and we have the final statement which you can read here

"The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities. The virus respects no borders. Combatting this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity. We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat", the leaders said.

They added: We are determined to spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to:
▪ Protect lives.
▪ Safeguard people's jobs and incomes.
▪ Restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger.
▪ Minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains.
▪ Provide help to all countries in need of assistance.
▪ Coordinate on public health and financial measures.

1505 CET 1805 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Bad news from the Netherlands. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 1,019, or 16%, to 7,431, health authorities said.

The Netherlands National Institute for Health (RIVM) said in its daily update on the outbreak there were 78 new deaths registered in the past day, bringing the total to 434.


1500 CET (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

As we understand the virtual summit of G20 leaders has started.

TASS news agency reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron. Following that, he joined the G20 summit, held in the format of a video conference, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

"The president has finished a phone call with Emmanuel Macron and joined the G20 summit," he said.

The G20 summit is held in the format of a video call. During the summit, the G20 leaders will discuss coordination of actions aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the economic consequences of the pandemic. Saudi Arabia is this year's chair of the G20. The annual summit of the group is set to take place in November in Saudi Arabia.


1300 CET (1600 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 More on the G20 summit that is happening today. Attending will be Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. UAE is not a member of the G20 but is attending because it is the current chair of the Gulf Co-operation Council. He tweeted a few minutes ago: "In a spirit of global solidarity the UAE participates today in the extraordinary G20 summit chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques ... We face an unprecedented common challenge in light of the spread of the new Corona virus .. and the peoples of the world are looking forward to this summit to come up with positions and decisions that promote collective confrontation of this danger."


1245 CET (1545 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Here are some updates of the situation in Central Asia compiled by Noman Ahmad 


The people in Kazakhstan are showing incredible signs of solidarity and humour. Gossiping thrives in such times as these. Some rumours include that the police can be bribed to enter certain buildings. Others tried to sneak out from Nur-Sultan by foot and were caught. Earlier this week, Kazakhstani businessmen also donated more than $40 million to the public fund Birgemiz, which in Kazakh means ‘‘we are together.'', a fund for vulnerable people. The Almaty and Nur-Sultan lockdown arrived just ahead of the Nowruz spring holiday, a time for partying and feasts. The good side is that crime dropped by half in Almaty.


Officials are not making their crisis plan clear in Turkmenistan. The government continues to insist that the country is #coronavirus free. Tragedies can occur when people have limited access to reliable health advice. Ashgabat's approach has been to shut all borders and suspend all international travel. Suspicion, however, is rising that the virus managed to filter through. Police are checking travellers and several places have been disinfected. Turkmenistan chose, like Tajikistan, to disregard guidance on social distancing amidst Nowruz celebrations.

1145 CET (1445 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  The impact of coronavirus on the economic activity of countries is huge. Maximiliaan van Lange looks at the construction sector in the Netherlands, where there may even be a silver lining

Financieel Dagblad writes that the construction sector in the Netherlands will also be affected by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. New construction projects are postponed, some of the current projects have been shut down, and Eastern European construction workers are leaving.

However, the pandemic in the Netherlands also offers economic opportunities for pre-planned construction projects. The rail companies ProRail and Strukton Rail are reporting that planned infrastructure work can start in the Netherlands earlier than planned. Between 30 March and 6 April, the important Schiphol tunnel at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol International Airport will therefore be upgraded since the tunnel is at the moment less busy due to the shortened rail timetable. This is the oldest of the two tunnels in the Schiphol tunnel network, some of it up to fifty years old. Normally, this construction work would have a major impact on rail traffic in the Netherlands, says Prorail.

Rijkswaterstaat en het Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management and the Government Property Agency) have promised to carry out as many projects as possible but are finding that keeping up maintenance of facilities is increasingly difficult.


1100 CET (1400 Tbilisi Dubai)

 In Georgia, the delicate arrangements between Tbilisi and the ethnic minorities in the country was tested this week with the outbreak of a case of coronavirus in the mainly Azerbaijani speaking district of Marneuli, south of capital on Sunday. The government moved swiftly to isolate two districts, Marneuli and Bolnisi, deploying the Army and Ministry of Interior forces to seal off the areas. The move could potentially have had negative consequences, not only in the relations between the central government and the community itself, but also with the Government of Azerbaijan, that traditional sees itself as both the guardian and the voice of this community, even though its claim to this is somewhat dubious. The Georgian government justified the move on the fact that the two regions are on the road to and from Azerbaijan and Armenia, where goods are still transported (although the border is closed for people), and was therefore in the national and regional interest to contain the virus decisively. Baku appears to have taken an understanding view of the situation.

The Georgian Government put the former Ombudsman of Georgia Sozar Subari, who was also for a time a Minister in Georgian Dream government, in charge of the operation. This move was welcomed as Subari has a good standing both in the minority regions as well as country wide. The government has also embarked on the rapid testing of the population in the two districts in an attempt to identify if the continuing closure of the region is necessary. It set up a mobile field hospital in the district in support of the local medical facilities. (picture)

There was criticism of a number of racist comments disparaging the Azerbaijani minority, that appeared on social media in the midst of this problem. On the other hand, some media sources accused the Georgian government of being partly responsible for the outbreak of the virus in Marneuli, saying that its public education campaigns were conducted only in Georgian and not available for those citizens who spoke other languages. A new goverrnment information website now has a section in Azerbaijani.

For the moment the situation appears to be calm and under control, but events once more highlighted the potential of coronavirus to create social and political disruption.


1030 CET (1330 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Here are some more updates from the MENA region compiled by Noman Ahmed. We start with Yemen, a country already devastated by war, where people's resilience is often simply inspiring, and where people are used to facing disease and famine

 In Yemen, business have resisted the call for shutdown. Yemen's two governments shut down school, borders and banned large gatherings. They have not ordered a lockdown, instead asking governors to impose measures where and when deemed necessary. A local shop owner states that he would only close shop if a case was discovered or in case of a government-ordered lockdown. Other shops said they were not in favour of lockdown at this point. Such resistance is based on concerns about losing sources of income. In the picture below a restaurant worker sprays a sanitizer on a customer's hand in Sanaa on Wednesday



1000 CET (1300 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Here are some of this morning figures foir the virus spread in the MENA region put together for us by Ahmad Noman from our research team

Israel: 439 new cases, total of 2,369, total deaths 5

UAE: 85 new cases, total of 333, total deaths 2 

Morocco: 55 new cases, total of 225, total deaths 6    

Tunisia: 59 new cases, total 173, total death 5

Palestine: 11 new cases, total of 71, one death reported this morning


0830 CET (1130 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  The Head of the European Union Delegation to Georgia, Ambassador Carl Hartzell, has released a message of solidarity which was broadcast on national TV and other stations yesterday. "The European Union stands with Georgia.... We are in this together" he emphasisied.

You can watch it on you tube here



0820 CET (1120 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The morning figures from the South Caucasus show continued small increases in the number of cases

 Georgia - figures just released this morning by the government say there are 77 confirmed cases; 4055 people are under quarantine and 252 people are hospitalised.

 Armenia - also figures from the government released this morning report 25 new cases bribnging the total to 290

 Azerbaijan - There are now 93 cases of coronavirus with 2 reported deaths  (figures from John Hopkins University)



0805 CET (1101 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The leaders of the G20 countries will convene for two hours in a virtual summit today to agree a global response to the coronavirus crisis.

Diplomats from the group - known as "sherpas" - have been meeting, also virtually and behind the scenes, to prepare a final statement and a press release, which are expected to lay down the modalities for future action, not only in the immediate response to the current health emeregency, but also to address the huge economic impact of the crisis.

The summit is being hosted by Saudi Arabia, which has the chairmanship of the G20 for 2020.

This is an inforgraphic on the summit released by the Saudi Foreign Ministry


0801 CET (1101 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We start with the latest data on the coronavirus, based on the

There are now 472076 cases reported world wide. The virus has already killed 21,308 people.

More than half of those who died so far have been in just two EU countries – Italy (7503) and Spain (3647).




Good morning. It is Thursday, 26 March 2020

0800 Central European Time (CET) and 1100 am in Tbilisi and Dubai

Welcome to this live blog on brought to you by our team of journalists and researchers in The Hague in the Netherlands and in Tbilisi in  Georgia, working with other colleagues and assiates in a number of othe countries.




1900 CET (2200 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now closing this blog for today. A quarter of the world population are under lockdown. In Russia, president Putin has postponed a constitutional referendum; in Ukraine the government declared a state of emergency. Prince Charles has tesetd positive with coronavirus.  The figures of infections and deaths continue to be grim. But all over the world we are hearing stories of resilience and solidarity as people come together. If you want to contact us about the content odf this blog or to tell us your story or experience please send us an email at We  are back with this live blog tomorrow at 0800 CET (1100 Tbilisi/Dubai). In the meantime Be safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!.Goodnight.

1845 CET (2145 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Loneliness during the epidemic

Before we close this blog for today, our daily public service message for today, prepared by William Murray, is related to how we deal with lonliness at a time when a quarter of the world's population is under lock down. it is crucial that we pay attention to the seemingly small things that over time can have a major effect on our mental health

read more  here

1835 CET (2135 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 London reports that the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Budapest, Stephen Dick, aged 37, has died of coronavirus


1830 CET (2130 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  We have the data released this evening in Azerbaijan

According to official figures just released, there are "81 active coronavirus patients hospitalized in special regime hospitals in Azerbaijan are under medical supervision." 2,914 people placed in various quarantine zones.1 person died of coronavirus in the last day.


1800 CET (2100 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have the afternoon updates from the Middle East collected by our colleague Noman Ahmed


The country continues to be a hotbed for the spread of the virus. Today there were reports of 2206 new cases and 143 new deaths.

In other parts of the Middle East:

Saudi Arabia: 133 new cases, total 900 cases, 2 total deaths
Egypt: 40 new cases, total 442 cases, 21 total deaths
Iraq: 30 new cases, total 346 cases, 29 total deaths
Tunisia: 57 new cases, total 171 cases, 4 total deaths

 In Jordan there has been a bit of en ease to the restrictions that were imposed earlier.
The government has eased an indefinite, round-the-clock curfew imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. People will now be allowed to leave home for nearby shops to get basic supplies. Municipalities were already planning to deliver all supplies to homes, but the strictly imposed curfews caused anxiety and distress. Pictured above is citizens crowding a municipal bus distributing bread.

Earlier this week, the King of Jordan said: "My brothers and sisters, my family, my people, and my source of fortitude each and every one of you is a soldier of this nation, each in your own post,".
The country has so far reported 154 cases of coronavirus but no deaths.

 Israel: The number of cases in Israel continues to increase on an hourly basis. This is due to the increased capacity of testing. Total diagnosed are now 2170 with 240 new cases today. Measures to restrict movement of people will go into effect as of this afternoon.


1745 CET (2045 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some interesting information from Oxford University in the UK. The University has nearly 25,000 students. Most of them have now gone home for the Easter Holidays, but just before that happened the University reports that eight Oxford students had tested positive for coronavirus.

But Oxford is fighting back. It has three research projects that are on the cutting edge of the battle against coronavirus:Professor Sarah Gilbert's team working on developing a vaccine; Professor Peter Horby's team testing new and existing drugs on patients with confirmed coronavirus, and Dr Sandy Douglas's team developing manufacturing processes for mass production of vaccines. The three projects have just been extensively funded by the UK government.


1500 CET (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Another update from Russia

President Vladimir Putin urged Russians "to stay home" due to the coronavirus pandemic during his address to the nation amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The president announced that the constitutional vote has to be postponed due to the coronavirus."All recommendations must be followed. We need to protect ourselves and those close to us," the Russian leader said in an address to the nation. "Believe me, the safest thing right now is to stay home," he stressed.

Vladimir Putin declared the next week non-working due to the coronavirus, but with the preservation of salaries. "Now it is extremely important to prevent the threat of the rapid spread of the disease, therefore, I declare the next week non-working with salary preservation, that is, days off will last from Saturday March 28 to Sunday April 5," President Putin said in his address to Russian citizens on Wednesday, TASS news agency reported.


1345 CET (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 A situation report from Belgium, prepared by our team member Maximiliaan van Lange:

Over the past two days, the number of fatalities in Belgium fell, but according to the latest figures, the country has 56 new deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest figure yet for a 24 hour period. There are now 93 new patients in intenbsive care, bringing the total to 474. In all 178 people have died and 4,937 COVID-19 virus infections have been diagnosed.

"We have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak', said the most famous Belgian virologist Steven van Gucht. In reality, the number of cases can be higher, says Van Gucht: Reports of deaths from old people's homes, for example, can take days before it is properly reported.

In Belgium there are 1,456 beds available in intensive care, of which 474 have now been taken. The capacity can still be substantially increased in the next few days if necessary, Van Gucht confirmed whilst addrerssing a daily press conference.

1245 CET (1545 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We showed earlier a tweet from the Kremlin of Putin walking in a hospital yesterday, dressed as if he was going for a tennis match. Well here is another picture from the same event, where things are different. Putin is expected to address the nation in a few hours. The Kremlin said he has cancelled a visit to St Petersburg and will stay in Mosocw.

1215 CET (1515 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has confirmed.

Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms "but otherwise remains in good health", a spokesman said.

The Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has also been tested but does not have the virus.

Clarence House said Charles and Camilla were now self-isolating at Balmoral, adding the prince has been working throughout from home over the last few days.

An official statement read: "It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks."


1130 CET (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 There is a lot of speculation as to what is going on in Russia with regards to coronavirus. The official figures put the number of cases at a few hundred. But Russian officials are now, slowly, starting to confirm that the real figures are likely to be much higher. Yesterday president Putin visited a hospital. Note there is not a mask in sight ! Putin will address the nation in the next hours.

1045 CET (1345 Tbilisi/Dubai)

   Some unusual stories are emerging from the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. These borders have been open long before Shengen came into existance and have always been used as examples of best practice in cross border management between neighbours. They are now also victims of coronavirus because Belgium and The Netherlands have adopted very different approaches to dealing with the crisis. Here are two stories from the broacaster Omroep Zeeland

Retail shop Zeeman in Baarle-Nassau, the Noord-Brabant village which straddles the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, has become a focal point for the countries' different approach to coronavirus. The border splits the shop in two, with its Belgian section closed following the Belgian directive for all non-essential shops while its Dutch half remains open for business. This meant that customer Onno from Baarle Nassau, who wanted to buy ‘two night shirts' at the shop, was told by staff the shirts were officially situated in Belgium and he could not cross the border which is marked with a police tape. ‘I had a good laugh,' Onno told the broadcaster, ‘but it does show how strict the rules are.

A Zeeman spokesman confirmed the shop in Baarle Nassau has been divided into two to comply with the Belgian rules but said the shop actually falls under Dutch law. ‘We are doing it to show our solidarity with our Belgian neighbours,' he said. Essentials like baby clothing and household articles are on the Dutch side so people can still buy those. Meanwhile, concrete blocks put up by the Belgian authorities to close the border with the Netherlands in the province of Zeeland have resulted in a conundrum for the inhabitants near the Dutch village of Philippine as well. The only asphalt road going to their homes takes them into Belgium, the Dutch alternative being an extremely bumpy track which ‘is not very convenient,' one of the locals told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.


1015 CET (1315 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Whilst dealing with the immediate health emergency created by the coronavirus, world leaders have to quickly develop a strategy of how to deal with the disruption that it has caused to the world economy.

Tomorrow there are two important meetings taking place - both virtually.

 The Politico website reports that EU leaders will pledge to "start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and to sustainable growth, drawing all lessons from the crisis," according to a draft "joint statement" to be agreed during a videoconference on Thursday. "This will require an exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment," adds the statement.

"To this end we invite the Commission to start work on a proposal for a Roadmap for recovery accompanied by an Action Plan" by "the members of the European Council," the draft notes. Leaders will call for the establishment of "a true European Crisis Management Centre" as "the time has come to put into place a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU." But of course, "the urgency is presently on fighting the Coronavirus pandemic and its immediate consequences," the draft statement says.

Also tomorrow, leaders of the G20 nations will hold a virtual summit hosted by the current chair of the group, Saudi Arabia

read more on here


1000 CET (1300 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Time Out becomes Time In

Visitors to London are very familiar with the publication Time Out, which normally gives listings of cinemas, cultural and other events in the big city. But with Londonb in lockdown Time Out has renamed itself Time In. It is now digital-only and has switched its focus from events to live-stream listings from the likes of the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells.


0950 CET (1250 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 We love this video from Armenia encouraging people not to go shopping between 10,00-12.00 to allow vulnerable people to do their shopping first. View it on Youttube here 


0945 CET (1245 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have the overnight updates from the MENA region collected by our colleague Noman Ahmed from our research team

Libya: 1st case reported yesterday 

Sudan: 1 new case, a total of 3 

Oman: 18 new cases, total 84, no deaths reported 

UAE: 50 new cases, total of 248, total deaths 2 

Bahrain:  15 new cases, total of 392, total deaths 3 

Qatar: 25 new cases, total of 526, no deaths reported 

Kuwait:  2 new cases, total of 191, no deaths reported 

Jordan: 27 new cases, total of 154, no deaths reported 

Israel: 488 new cases, total of 1930, total deaths 3 

Palestine: 1 new case, total of 60, no deaths reported 

Egypt: 36 new cases, total of 402, total deaths 20 

Lebanon: 37 new cases, total of 318, total deaths 4 

Algeria: 34 new cases, total of 264, total deaths 19 

Tunisia: 25 new cases, total of 114, total deaths 4 

Morocco: 27 new cases, total of 170, total deaths 5

And there are also concerns about what is going on in the prisons in the region. We heard last week that Iran had sent many prisoners "temporarily" back home. In the wider MENA region however the situation remains precarious.

A number of local and regional human rights groups issued a call for Arab governments to adopt measures to guarantee the safety and health of inmates. In many MENA countries, prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, unsanitary, and suffer from a lack of resources; accordingly, detainees are routinely denied proper access to medical care. The call urges authorities to be clear on their regulations, adopt emergency preparedness plans and guarantee access to medical care. The Call also extended to WHO, ICRC and UN Human Rights Council. 



0830 CET (1130 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Updates now from the South Caucasus from our team in Tbilisi

 Georgia:  Latest figures released by the Georgian Health authorities report 73 confirmed cases; 4055 people are under quarantine and 252 are hospitalised

 Armenia: There are reports of 16 news cases overnight bringing the total to 265.

 Azerbaijan: The number of cases is 87


0825 CET (1125 Tbilisi and Dubai)

Some information from two of the world's most populated countries. 

Indonesia: According to the Jakarta Post newspaper the COVID-19 situation is already bad in Indonesia, which now has the highest death toll in Southeast Asia just a few weeks after declaring itself "virus-free". As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 686 cases with 55 deaths.

The crisis is likely going to get worse. Experts predict that more than 70,000 Indonesians will have been infected by the disease as of Ramadan and Idul Fitri, during which millions of the country's Muslims typically travel to their hometowns.

That number, according to one scientist, is a "conservative" estimate.

Questions linger, however, about whether the measures taken by the government are enough to prevent the country from descending into a crisis of the scale now seen in Iran and Italy, where the death toll has reached thousands, or even worse.

In India, meanwhile, there were reports of panic buying as Indians horded food after the government declared a complete lock-in of all 1.2 billion people for 21 days on Tuesday


0805 CET (1105 Tbilis/Dubai)

We start this morning with the usual depressing figures of the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the data from John Hopkins University 423,121 confirmed cases in 170 countries and territories; The number of deaths is 18,919. 108619 people are reported to have recovered.


Good morning. It is Wednesday, 25 March 2020.

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

Welcome to this live blog on focusing on the coronavirus crisis and its consequences.




read the live blog from 18-24 March here


Editorial Note: 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