Live Blog
04 April 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


1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today. We will be back with this live blog tomorrow Sunday, 5 April at 12 midday Central European Summer Time (1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai)

Until then from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, Good evening. Be Safe! Be healthy! Be Happy!


1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Today's Public Service Announcement - The face mask

Our public service announcement today is related to face masks. President Trump has sworn not to wear one despite his Health authorities recommending it. Elsewhere there are mixed views on this issue, as William Murray writes. But in case you want one, and cannot find one to buy, he also tells us how to make one. read more here


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Iran now reports that it has 55,743 covid-19 cases, adding that 3,452 patients have now died of the virus. Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that "2,560 more patients infected with COVID-19 virus have been identified in Iran, increasing the number of infected patients to 55,743".

He added that 19,736 coronavirus patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, expressing concern that 4,103 people infected with the virus are in critical condition.



1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Saudi Arabia

One story which has been running parallel to that of the pandemic, but now appears to have meshed into it, is the collapse of the price of oil on the international markets. Initially this was due to completely different reasons, and was related mainly to the relations between Russia and the OPEC countries.

As Noman Ahmed from the research team writes, there has been a renewed exchange of accusations from both sides

In a renewed exchange of accusations, Saudi Foreign and Energy Ministers accused Russia of pulling out of OPEC+ deal leading to a collapse in world oil prices. This is the second time OPEC+ tries to meet to address the oil price impact of the coronavirus pandemic after the previous meeting did not result in any agreements.

A statement by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Farhan, stated that they tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree. He added that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector and there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices which declined as coronavirus outbreak led to decreasing demand. The global oil market has crashed with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year. The demands dropped by a third as billions of people worldwide restricted their movements.

Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Trump asked to control production. Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting"

OPEC sources say that a meeting could be held later this week, but details were not confirmed yet.


1510 CEST (1710 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Spain will extend the state of emergency until 26 April. An update from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

Spanish media reported this morning that they expected Pedro Sánchez's government to ask the parliament today (April 4) to extend the state of emergency by two weeks until April 26. The number of infections in Spain is rising less rapidly. This will be the second time in Spain that the state of emergency will be extended by two weeks. During this period, only essential sectors of society are operating.

809 new deaths from covid-19 have been reported in the last 24 hours. The daily number of reported fatalities has thus decreased slightly for the second day in a row. A week ago, the daily increase was still about 20 percent.

Spain now has the highest number of confirmed covid-19 cases in Europe - 124,736 - and is second only to the United States world wide. The number of fatalities has now reached 11,744

1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Our light relief moment. Today: the bidet is back

After hours reporting about the horrific effects of coronavirus, at this point in our blog we would like to give our readers, and ourselves, a moment of light relief. Yesterday, the story was from India about the new twins named Covid and Corona.

Today the story is from the United States, which is fast becoming the epicentre of the pandemic.It has led to a rather unexpected turn of events in one asspect of personal hygene. As Ephrem Kossaify writes for Arab News, as a result of shortage of toilet paper, the bidet is back! 

A bidet, popular in the Middle East and parts of Asia, is a bowl designed to be sat on or a water hose for the purpose of washing after using the loo.

During the past couple of months, various bidet manufacturers have been struggling to cope with skyrocketing demand.

'Due to the increase of bidets sales, many items are on backorder or out of stock with all of the main suppliers in the industry,' said, a company that brands itself as a "team of crusaders, fighting for clean bums and reduced global wastefulness ... and ultimately turning people into born-again bidet lovers.'"

You can read the article here

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We live in desperate times, which require flexible measures.


Well understood it seems by the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill

Restricted in what he can do in these days of self-isolation, the Patriarch decided to put an icon of the Virgin Mary in his Mercedes, and go around Moscow to shower holy blessing. More on this story on the website of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate


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Some updates now from Central Asia, compiled by Noman Ahmed


Pictures were circulated in social media where a bus transporting policy officers didn't adhere to social distance measures. Read the story here:

The country's expats continue pleading to be returned home, as can be seen on this video posted on Youtube

At home, citizens have complained that security forces did not run the state emergency well. Some complained about a lack of transparency and full control of people' movements. 

Read the full story on Eurasianet here


The President gave the green light to an emergency military recruitment as the authorities prepare to enforce even broader measures amidst the unfolding coronavirus epidemic.

The Defense Minister sad that the draftees can help in manning checkpoints, patrolling streets, carrying out disinfection, guarding government facilities and assisting in the event of floods.

The recruitment drive may be continued for up to three months. The duration of service or even the number of people is yet to be determined but men until 60 will be eligible. Anybody avoiding drafts will face administrative charges and fines up to $30.

The move was met with both criticism and applause.


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The Coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a health issue. But the crisis has already shaken the world economy from its roots. It is also a crisis that inevitable creates a new situatiuon in the global order.

A few days ago the Secretary General of the United Nations issued a call for a global cease fire .

  Yesterday the European Union added its voice in support of this appeal in a statement issued on its behalf by Josep Borrell the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.

"The fight against this global pandemic, which is taking so many lives and challenging the functioning of our societies, is an unprecedented challenge that requires global unity, cooperation, solidarity and compassion", he said.

read it in full here


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  The Netherlands

The Chinese metropolis of Wuhan was the first official hotspot of the COVID-19 virus. In Europe, northern Italy is seen as the first hotspot. In the Netherlands, the southern province of North Brabant is regularly mentioned as a source of fire. The impact and grief in North Brabant is great. An update from the Netherlands from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

For the time being, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands is greatest in North Brabant. East Brabant in particular has been severely affected by the virus. Nowhere else in the Netherlands are there so many hospital admissions and daily deaths, especially elderly people dying as a result of the virus. The province lives these weeks to the rhythm of funerals.

Official figures from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) have seen a decline in the number of new hospital admissions over the past week, but local GPs and funeral directors report no decline. Last week there was an increase of eighty percent more deaths than normal. These discrepencies are related to the way of counting infections and deaths. Not all patients and deaths are officially counted by the RIVM. In particular, deaths from nursing homes are not always counted by the RIVM.


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The regional campaign Landmines Free South Caucasus was planning a number of activities throughout the region but these all had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a statement from the campaign

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Here are a couple of updates from the Middle East, compiled by Noman Ahmed from the research team:


Egypt prepares for a tough coming week as numbers ready to soar beyond 1000. Egypt witnessed 120 new cases yesterday, the highest record per day so far. Total deaths stand at 66.


UAE is the fifth country to implement drive-through preliminary COVID-19 testing. Check this video to see how drive-through tests are conducted in the UAE.


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With a population of more than 83 million people, controlling the pandemic in Turkey is not an easy task. President Recip Tayip Erdogan has been appealing to citizens to co-operate with the government measures.

The president announced several strong new measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including a partial curfew for citizens under 20, a 15-day ban on vehicles leaving or entering 31 provinces.

President Erdogan said cities included Istanbul that is home to nearly one-fifth of Turkey's population, as well as the urban centers of Ankara, Izmir, Bursa and Adana.

Police and gendarmerie teams began implementing measures by setting up checkpoints at entrances and exits to cities beginning at midnight.

Security forces rejected the pleas of those wanting to travel, except for compulsory and necessary situations, such as commercial vehicles carrying basic or medical supplies. The president set a curfew restricting those younger than 20 from leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Wearing face-masks in crowded areas including stores is also now mandatory, said the president, and the gathering of crowds in open spaces, including streets, is not allowed.

The new measures follow last month's closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, and other venues as well as the cancellation of sports events.

Inter-city travelers are already being tested for high fever and coughing, with systems set up at city boundaries.

Those older than 65, or who suffer from chronic illnesses are also restricted from leaving their homes.


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We have been following closely how religious leaders in different countries are dealing with the pandemic, and with the restrictions that have been imposed by governments. In Georgia it appears the issue will come to a head over the coming two weeks, because the peak of the pandemic in the country also coincides with the two weeks before Easter when Orthodox Georgians usually flock to the Churches. Tomorrow is the second Sunday before Easter and on Tuesday the Georgian Church celebrates the Feast of the Announciation. Both dasys normally attract large crowds. The Church has refused to cancel services, but there are different views among Church leaders as to how exactly to behave in the circumstances.

In the meantime we are also hearing of similar dilemmas on the other side of the Caucasus mountains in the Republic of Daghestan in the North Caucasus.

In Dagestan yesterday (Friday 3 April), thousands of people attended Friday prayers, despite the ban on gathering due to the threat of the spread of coronavirus. The head of the republic, Vladimir Vasiliev, has already warned that "those who allowed this may be held criminally liable," the Rossiya-1 television channel reports.

According to Vasiliev, the previous day the mufti of Daghestan had called for large crowds to be avoided at Friday prayers. However, despite this on Friday  there were about a thousand worshipers in the Juma Mosque in Makhachkala, and about 3 thousand worshipers in Kizilyurt. “

According to Rospotrebnadzor, in Dagestan the number of infected with COVID-19 has reached 25.  

The situation may well repeat itself in other countriesd, especially since we are approaching the start of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan, which starts around 23 April.

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The Georgian government announced this morning that it had registered its first death from coronavirus. The country has been praised for its success in containing the pandemic so far. The total number of reported cases in Georgia this morning stood at 156. The country is keeping 5526 people in strict quarantine.

Yesterday, Georgian prime minister Giorgi Gakharia gave an interview to Fox News during which he spoke about the country’s strategy in dealing with the pandemic.

"The key for Georgia was early, decisive action, and clear, consistent communication to our citizens. It was not easy to shut down the country, but certainly much easier in a small country like Georgia as opposed to the world's largest economy," the prime minister stressed. "We made an aggressive decision to start closing down major social events and gatherings, and we closed schools in mid-March and enforced self-isolation. We provided thousands of our citizens with quarantine facilities, and we have completely banned movement during night time."

He also underscored that while action was taken in January, borders were not immediately shuttered. Instead, the approach was "gradual" leading up to the March 21 State of Emergency declaration


Welcome to this live blog on

It is Saturday, 4 April 2020, 12 noon Central European Summer Time, 14.00 in Tbilisi and in Dubai.


For the next four hours we will have live reporting compiled by our team of researchers and journalists based in The Hague in The Netherlands, and in Tbilisi in Georgia as we follow events around the global coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global society. The number of coronavirus cases continue to increase, and the pandemic is spreading very fast in the United States where there are now more than a quarter of a million cases. In the South Caucasus, Georgia has reported its first death from the covid-19 virus. A dispute is brewing with the Orthodox Church which is refusing to cancel religious services in the run up to the Easter celebrations over the next two weeks. These are two of the stories we will be focusing on today.



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We are now pausing this blog for today. It has been another day of sad and difficult news from across the world. But once again we are inspired by the examples of human spirit at its best as groups and communities come together to deal with the pandemic and its many consequences. We will be back tomorrow with this live blog from 1200-1600 CEST (1400-1800 Tbilisi/Dubai time)

In the meantime from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi we wish you a good evening: Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!


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And our final word for today is our usual public service announcement, our daily words of advice on how to deal with the pandemic and its various consequences. In today's feature William Murray looks at three ways in which we can keep ourselves sane whilst self-isolating. 

Read it here


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There is a lot of unease in Georgia because the Orthodox Church is insisting on gathering parisheners for Easter Services this weekend, despite the curfew and the state of emergency.

Patriarch Ilya II has indicated that prayers should be held from 16.00-20.00 so people can return home before the curfew starts at 2100. read more on the facebook page of the Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate here

But it was pointed out that public gatherings were illegal at any time because of the state of emeregency rules

We very much hope that commonsense will prevail, because Georgia has so far been very good in managing the situation around the coronavirus, but is now actually entering the most sensitive phase. We will be following this story over the weekend on this live bliog.

1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Two more stories from our colleague Noman Ahmed about the Middle East

 Saudi Arabia 

King Salman instructed the government to pay 60 percent of the Saudi employees' salaries for the next three months. A total sum is estimated at $2.39 billion to support 1.2 million workers in coronavirus affected companies. Other GCC countries introduced several tax cuts and stimulus packages.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has also announced aid packages to several countries including Djibouti, Egypt, Palestine and Yemen. Check the World Bank's statement here


A local bakery in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza made a "corona cake" depicting a woman wearing a blue face mask. The baker said that the role is to raise awareness on coronavirus and to remind people of the importance of social distancing. After posting his designs on social media, many are ordering from him. Gaza has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 all of whom are in isolation.  



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  The Netherlands

An update from the Netherlands from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

While the Netherlands is getting ready for a warm and sunny weekend, the big cities are worried about big crowds in parks, nature reserves, and on beaches. The capital Amsterdam is therefore going to restrict access to parks and canals from Sunday (5 April) onwards. The side entrances will be closed and visitors will be restricted. Amsterdam's ring of canals will also be closed. Sailing is prohibited and locks in the area will remain closed for pleasure craft.

Dutch Prime Minister Martk Rutte has called on Belgians and Germans not to travel to the Netherlands in the coming weeks. It has also been announced that Dutch nationals travelling to the Netherlands from the United States will have to spend two weeks in home quarantine.

Since Thursday afternoon (2 April) 148 people have died in the Netherlands as a result of the COVID-19 virus, according to the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment). The total of death is therefore 1,487 in the Netherlands.


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We have not been talking too much on Turkey in this blog. The latest data is that Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak increased by 79 to 356 on April 2, its highest rise, while the number of confirmed cases from the disease rose by 2,456 to 18,135. This was confirmed by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Authorities are considering stricter rules for Istanbul, the country's largest city by population, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As part of those new measures, a curfew could be imposed for people younger than 18 years of age and privately-owned vehicles could be banned from traffic.

Other additional action the authorities consider is expanding the scope of an already-announced curfew for elderly population to cover people aged 60. A countrywide partial curfew was already imposed in March for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases.



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We started this blog earlier today with a tribute to Spain. Unfortunately there is more bad news from this country because it is now confirmed that the latest data shows an increase in another 900 people dead in the previous twenty four hours bringing the total to 10,935. The only other country with more reported deaths is Italy. Here is a graph with the Spanish statistics:


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Meet the new twins, Covid and Corona

In the midst of all the bad news, you can still find an item or two that make you smile. This from the BBC

Welcome to the world, Corona and Covid - these are the names of newborn twins in India's Raipur city.

The boy and girl were born amid a three-week lockdown in India. Their parents say they gave them the names as a reminder of obstacles overcome during trying times that have disrupted life across the world.

In an interview with local media, the mother said it was a "difficult" delivery. "We faced many challenges and me and my husband wanted to make the day memorable," she said, adding that she went into labour on 26 March.

"The virus is dangerous but its outbreak has made people focus on hygiene and inculcate other good habits. So we thought about these names," she explained.

Hospital staff started calling the twins as Corona and Covid soon after they were born - which helped the parents make their decision.


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There have been concerns expressed imn many parts of the world over some of the draconian measures put into place by governments in their efforts to combat coronavius, and their impact on human and civil rights. Privacy, already under huge pressure before the crisis, now appears to be no longer of any importance. Maximiliaan van Lange from our research team has been looking at a move coming from Google that in other cirumstances would have triggered a storm, but which in the current circumstances is being largely accepted as a necessity

Tech company Google announced Friday (April 3) in a blog post that it will make anonymous location data and travel movements of users from 131 countries available to governments and researchers to help them better fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus as long as the pandemic lasts. Google believes that these public reports show whether the measures to work from home and stay away from parks and shops are actually having an impact.

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The picture emerging from the Middle East of the spread of coronavirus is somewhat patchy. Apart from Iran, that became one of the epicentres of the virus right at the start of the pandemic, other countries have put measures in place that appear to have had some measure of success. However with Ramadan coming later this month, the fear that social distancing rules may be flaunted as people gather for the usual Ramadan events, puts the region once more in focus.

Noman Ahmed from the research team has been looking at some of the developments in the region


Local authorities in Yemen's south-eastern governorate of Hadramout imposed a curfew as the country gets ready for the fight against the coronavirus. Some cases were suspected in Sana'a, but health officials have not confirmed yet. Hadramout's governor said that the curfew was imposed after people ignored appeals to stay at home and avoid gatherings. The curfew lasts from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Other governorates began releasing low-risk prisoners to protect them from a possible outbreak. Officials said the release of the prisoners will ease crowded prisons and help isolate the remaining prisoners.

Yemen's internationally recognized government has ordered governors to take tough measures to prevent the spread of the disease in their governorates. All borders, schools, universities and mosques are closed. Several independent journalists and activists said measures are not always enforced and medical supplies remain insufficient. 


Egypt sanitized prisons to curb risk of infection, the Ministry of Interior announced today. The sanitation procedures were carried out by preventive medicine teams, and included different areas within the prisons (corridors, visit spots, jail cells, kitchens). 

Suspension of prison visits nationwide was suspended earlier. No cases have been reported inside Egyptian prisons so far.


Kuwait warned citizens and expatriates not to violate curfew regulations. Expatriate violators would face harsh punishments such as deportation. Nearly 200 residents have been arrested during the curfew hours.The Interior Ministry issued the warning and asked people to seek special permits online if they wish to leave home during the curfew. 

 Saudi Arabia 

A curfew will start this from 3 pm today in Saudi Arabia's Dammam, Taif and Qatif until further notice. Exceptions will be given to services and vital activities. The Interior Ministry had already implemented a 24-hour curfew in the two holy cities yesterday with the annual Hajj pilgrimage likely to be suspended. 

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Some updates from Central Asia


A major flour-milling company announced it will suspend operations in protest as their employees couldn't pass through the checkpoints related to the coronavirus-related lockdown. The halt threatened to shorten supplies which are crucial in the midst of the pandemic. 

The Bishkek based Akun, said yesterday that it filed for permits since two weeks and has not received them. 

Citizens lobbied online by creating supporting social media pressure and the permits were processed and received yesterday. Akun will resume its production today. 


Kazakhstan expects a recession as oil prices decline. The value of its oil exports has collapsed by 65.7 percent since the start of the year. The economic projections forecast a 0.9 percent contraction. Before the crisis, GDP was expected to expand by 4 percent.

"Exports will drop by $16.3 billion to $35.1 billion. Imports will decline by $7.5 billion to $26.6 billion," he said. "(Anticipated) nominal GDP is estimated at 69.7 trillion tenge ($155 billion), which is 4.8 trillion tenge ($10.6 billion) lower than the earlier forecast." National Economy Minister Ruslan Dalenov said. 


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The countries of the South Caucasus have so far been able to contain the pandemic to some extent. But the numbers now appear to be growing at a faster rate.

Here are some updates from the region


73 news cases have been reported and the total number of covid-19 cases has now reached 736. There are seven reported deaths from the virus.


There are 43 new cases, with the total number now reaching 443. Five people have died as a result of the virus.

Azerbaijanis now need to get permission from the police every time they want to leave their homes. This will be done via an app through which residents call or text naming the reason they wish to leave. This information will be transmitted to all police officers and if they encounter them on the streets, the police can check on their apps if the person has requested a pre-approval. The residents will need to notify police of their destinations.  The allowed reasons to leave home include to see a doctor, to shop for food, go to the bank or conduct other essential services (once per day), to attend a funeral, or to walk for 30 minutes within a 200-meter radius of home.


In Georgia the number of reported cases is 148, an increase of 27. There are 5392 people under quarantine. The Georgian prime minister ordered all medical personnel to be on the maximum level of readiness in two days.

Overnight, in the Georgian capital Tbilisi there was a massive disinfection of main streets and avenues by municipality workers

In the North Caucasus, Ramazan Kadyrov the leader of Chechnya has declared a curfew.

 "From April 3 we will tighten the quarantine regime. A decision was made to ban traffic and pedestrian traffic in all parts of Chechnya from 20:00 to 08:00" Kadyrov said in a message on Telegram.  Besides, from April 5 entrance to the republic will be closed for all types of transport.



Welcome to this liveblog on It is Friday, 3 April 2020. 12.00 midday Central European Summer Time, 14.00 in Tbilisi and Dubai.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, with more than one million cases reported so far world-wide and having caused already more than 53,000 deaths. In Spain one of the European countries most badly hit by the pandemic the number of deaths now exceeds 10,000.

We extend our solidarity with the people of Spain in these difficult times.


1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today. With the number of coronavirus cases world wide reaching nearly a million, a global effort goes on trying to contain the pandemic. Meanwhile UNESO has said that 80% of the world's children are now out of school because of the virus. That on its own is a sad piece of news to make us all worried. But it is only one of many that we have to report in these tragic times.

We will be back with this live blog tomorrow Friday, 3 April at 1200 midday Central European Summer Time equivalent to 14.00 in Tbilisi and Dubai. In the meantime, we wish all our readers and subscribers from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, a good evening. Be safe! Be healthy! Be happy!

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What happens if someone in your household shows signs of having coronavirus. Preparing for this eventuality may help avoid panic and stress. William Murray has been looking at what advice for best practice has been given by the WHO and others. Read it in today's public service announcement on here


1535 CEST (1735 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some updates from the wider Caucasus Region


The total number of cases has now reached 663. There is now news of another fatality. A 68 year patient was reported to have died today, bringing the total up to 5.


Azerbaijan looks close to declaring a state of emergency as the number of cases increases and the government is frustrated that some people are ignoring advice on self-isolation. The number of cases is now reported to be 400, with 5 deaths reported.

  Georgia offers a life-line to the separatist territories

Georgia appears to be offering a lifeline to the separatist entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in the last few days taking in 37 patients who have symptoms of covid-19 and transferring them to quarantine facilities in Georgia. Prime Minister Gakharia made it clear that Georgia will continue accepting people from the two entities who need help regardless of the political complications.


The number of covid-19 cases reach 50,000 in Iran. Total deaths 3160

North Caucasus:

Several regions have taken measures to assist low-income people and pensioners. In Adygea, $64,000 was allocated to purchase food and hygiene products, which will be distributed by 600 volunteers. In Karachay-Cherkessia, 1,670 low-income families and pensioners will receive packages of essential goods. In North Ossetia, a number of supermarkets have allocated separate shelves with free bread for low-income people.

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We are still waiting for President Putin's address to the nation in Russia. In the meantime here are some updates on the situation in the country771 new coronavirus infections were reported on Thursday, bringing the country's official number of cases up to 3,548.

Moscow has enacted a citywide quarantine from Monday, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said as the city's number of coronavirus cases surpassed 1,000 over the weekend. Moscow residents will only be allowed to leave their homes to seek emergency medical care, shop for food or medicine, go to work, walk pets or take out the garbage.

President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation imposing severe punishment - including up to five years in prison - for people convicted of spreading false information about the coronavirus. The legislation also imposes punishments for people breaking coronavirus quarantine rules, including up to seven years in prison.

This chart, prepared by Moscow Times, shows the number of increases of coronavirus cases in Russia over the last days.





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We are glad to be sharing regular updates from Central Asia on this blog. It is a region that is a mystery to many, and news kind of trickles out. But Noman Ahmed from the research team is keeping an eye on the region for us and here he shares some updates:

UNESCO estimates 80% of the world's children to be out of school due to the global coronavirus pandemic. In Central Asia, this has affected the region in various ways. 


Yesterday school children in Tajikistan went back to school after spring holidays. Classrooms that have been disinfected twice. The country has not reported any cases yet. In Turkmenistan, students follow business as usual with no cases reported as well. In other countries, the tide is different. 


Uzbekistan has also shut all pre-schools, schools, colleges and universities. Lessons began broadcasting on TV. These classes are also accompanied by sign language. Classes are broadcasted several times to ensure everyone watches them. Technologies to support college education are still under development. Universities have switched to accepting online admissions for next year. 


Kazakhstan closed all schools and moved the spring holiday to start on April 5. Teachers work from home and the government is working on a platform for distance learning. It is highly anticipated that schools will remain closed after April 5. No child will lose their place at the pre-school if they are not attending. Colleges and universities have already shifted to distance learning with methods such as Google Classroom, Moodle, Coursera, and Zoom as well as locally built programs. Students who are unable to travel to home are allowed in dorms but must stay in their rooms. Kazakh students who study abroad and international students in Kazakhstan have had varying fates. Some Kazakh students abroad were sent home and are currently studying online in quarantine while other international students in the country are either stuck or evacuated.


The situation is very similar in Kyrgyzstan, albeit with significantly less funding available from the state. Schools will be shut after a long vacation lasting April 8. After that, students will resume classes on TV and YouTube. Some 400 textbooks in four languages (Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek and Tajik) have been made freely available online. A fantastic looking website, iBilim, was released in two languages (Kyrgyz and Russian). Besides Zoom and Google Classroom, teachers will also be communicating with their students using WhatsApp and Telegram. Colleges and universities in Kyrgyzstan switched to distance learning. Students were given a long break while instructors and administrators were asked to develop plans to incorporate technology and develop distance learning. Students have been advised to return to their family homes and remain there for the time being. On the other hand, it is not yet clear how new admissions will be managed. Some universities might exempt students from entrance exams while others will postpone them.  

Also in Kyrgyzstan, regular international passenger flights have been temporarily cancelled at Manas and Osh international airports. The first automatic tunnels for disinfection were assembled. Check the video here


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We keep hearing of pan European solidarity, or lack thereof. Yet a lot is going on. In this picture a patient, infected with coronavirus, is carried on a stretcher into a German military A400M aircraft during a transfer operation from Strasbourg, France, to Ulm in Germany, March 29, 2020.  (Picture courtesy of REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)


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   We are expecting a speech shortly from the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin

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Some updates from the Benelux now, prepared for us by Maximiliaan van Lange

  The Netherlands

On Thursday evening (2 April), the Netherlands will call for the establishment of a 'corona fund' in Brussels, to help severely affected Southern European countries.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, speaking on Wednesday during a debate on the COVID-19 virus in Dutch parliament said this was not about loans that need to be repaid, but a 'gift'. The Dutch cabinet is prepared to pay a maximum of 1 billion euros into the fund that has yet to be set up.

The Netherlands has received a lot of criticism from EU member states in recent days, especially from Italy and Spain, because it would impose strict conditions on financial aid for the affected countries. This would involve money from the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM), a pot of hundreds of billions of euros created after the Greek debt crisis.


Belgian media reported on Thursday (2 April) the largest daily increase in the number of reported deaths due to the COVID-19 virus: 183 deaths. In total, more than 1,011 people have died from the virus. The Crisis Centre continues to repeat the message: "Keeping a distance is much more important than wearing a mouth mask".

In financial terms, almost one in ten Belgians is forced to use their savings to make ends meet. Just as many people are considering absorbing their reduced income by taking out an extra loan.


Luxembourg has shown solidarity towards EU Member States in recent days. On Wednesday (1 April) four French intensive care patients were transferred to Luxembourg hospitals.


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And it is not only institutions that are being tested. In the Middle East the Coronavirus can threaten social bonds.

In this article the journalist and writer Faisal al Yafai contends that the impact of the pandemic is both unprecedented and incalculable. However, a crisis that is unfolding behind the scenes is the "gradual fraying of bonds of family and friendship."

In the Middle East, such social bonds are taken very seriously. They are exemplified in large family gatherings and celebrations. This is arguably the most resilient aspect of Arab and Middle East societies. However, long periods of isolation are testing this resiliency. With restrictions comes fewer social events. In the Middle East, this is very difficult. Those who left their families to urban areas for work will suffer the most from this social isolation.

Many are already pointing at mental health issues and the challenges to change these social habits as every aspect of a normal daily life is challenged. Social bonds require renewal. A lockdown is not like a long-term war or a job in the city. This is because Coronavirus is something to survive and not to endure. With the lockdown expected to continue for long time, Middle Easterners have to find ways to "hold fast to those cords of family and friendship."

read the whole article here 

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Whilst we are all interested in the numbers of cases and deaths, and the news of measures being taken, and of heroic stories of resilience, there are also bigger issues at stake, and we want to reflect on these.

First, Europe and the implications of the pandemic for the European Union, at a time when the EU was already under pressure.

Corina Stratulat of the European Policy Centre this morning published a commentary discussing what needs to happen over the coming weeks to keep the discussion on the future of Europe going despite the pandemic, and using the present experience to relaunch the European project. She says:

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Conference on the Future of Europe should be used to rethink and reform collectively Europe's political, economic and social models. If the EU does not take the lead now, others could step in to set their own standards and rules instead.

The trigger of the European Union (EU)'s latest crisis is ... a virus. Since December 2019, COVID-19 has caused a pandemic of global proportions, throwing the EU and its member states, once again, into deep crisis mode. While the coronavirus chaos is in many ways unprecedented, it bears the same message for the EU (and the rest of the world) as all of the preceding crises: Change or perish!

As if to indicate the kind of change that is required and prove that such a change is, in fact, possible, in the space of just a few weeks, COVID-19 has already prompted a dramatically different and previously inconceivable modus operandi for our polities, placing whole nations, economies and cross-border relations on partial lockdown. When resistance is not an option, change seems inevitable.

In previous crises, European leaders were perhaps too quick to ‘shoot the messenger'. This time, shooting the messenger - COVID-19 - is exactly what we need. However, it is more vital than ever that we do not ignore its message. To deal more quickly and effectively with challenges such as these, the EU and its member states should demonstrate the capacity for critical self-reflection and comprehensive renewal, when necessary. The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) should be used to this end.

You can read her commentary in full here


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For the affacionados of tennis, the news yesterday that Wimbeldon will be cancelled was a huge dissapointment, but not a surprise in the present circumstances.

Maximiliaan van Lange from our research team has the story:

For the first time since the Second World War, there will be no Wimbledon this year.

This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it looks like the tournament is insured for this. The tennis tournament would have taken place from 29 June to 12 July. It is the first time since 1945 that the grandslam tournament in London will not take place.

The suggestion to play the tennis tournament without an audience or indoors was rejected because of the large number of people present at the complex anyway. In addition, any move to the summer would automatically have caused problems in the preparations and due to the many flight bans, it is uncertain whether tennis players would have been able to travel to London.


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The Georgian Orthodox Church has been in the centre of controversy because of the way it has dealt with the coronacrisis. The Church insisted on keeping the Churches open and services going.

With Easter coming there is concern of large numbers of people flocking to churches in violation of social distancing rules.

Now, the Patriarch, Ilya II has finally intervened with some guidelines to parishioners recommending they stay outside while mass is held and keep a distance from each other. read it here 

Georgia has been able to contain the spread of covid 19 through the use of strong measures, such as a state of emergency and a night curfew. The data this morning from the medical authorities in Tbilisi is that the number of cases is 130. There have been no deaths reported so far. The number of people in quarantine is 5550.

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There has been considerable discussion about the coroanvirus situation in Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

Speaking this morning at a webinair organised by the leading Brussels think-tank, the European Policy Centre, Adnan Tabatabai,, Co-founder and CEO, Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, explained that Iran simply does not have the option to resort to the sort of lockdowns we are seeing in other countries. The sanctions had greatly restricted the way the Islamic republic could react to the pandemic, and although mistakes were made, there was no lack of willingness to take action. Iran was receiving some assistance from other countries including the Gulf States. He called for the European Union not to wait for the United States before reaching out to Iran because the reluctance of the US was not going to dissapear soon, and Europe on this issue needed to act unilaterally. He also raised the issue of IMF assistance, and said that although Iran contributes to the IMF it cannot get an IMF loan because the Central Bank of Iran is listed by the US as a terrorist organisation. Whilst medicine and medical equipment are in theory not under sanction, the process of purchasing and shipping these commodities was.

In Iran itself, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday that the death toll had exceeded 3000. President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of missing a "historic opportunity" to lift sanctions.

"This was the best, historic opportunity for the Americans to reverse their wrong path and for once, tell their nation they are not against the Iranian people," he said. "This was a humanitarian issue. No one would have blamed them for retreating."

Medicines and medical equipment are exempt from sanctions but banks blocked transactions in fear of incurring any penalties in the US.

Countries including Azerbaijan, Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey and the UAE have all sent shipments of medical aid to Iran.


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We start with an update from Central Asia prepared for us by Noman Ahmed


Neighbourhood committees in Uzbekistan are enlisted in the fight against coronavirus. The councils, known as Mahalla councils, were co-opted during Soviet times for population control. Now their same mission is brought back to life. They are known to be the "eyes and ears" of the regime. The Mahalla has a historic role of unifying and socializing which later transformed into an instrument for control and surveillance.

In 1993, a law was adopted to formally acknowledge their role and they have been deployed since then for various roles. Their renewed role in Uzbekistan comes after several cases of defying social distancing rules were reported.


The President has announced more mitigation plans. The latest include new salary rates for medical workers, increased pensions, medical care for the uninsured, support for farmers


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With the number of coronavirus cases worldwide now close to one million in different countries questions are being asked avbout the performance of governments in response to the pandemic

Good day

It is  Thursday 2 April 2020 and we welcome you to this liveblog on



It is 16.00 Central European Summer Time, 18.00 in Tbilisi and Dubai.

We are now pausing this blog for today. Another day that we could not have imagined possible even a few weeks ago, with three billion people in some sort of self-isolation across the world, and with all the certainties of the past now under question. We will resume this blog tomorrow Thursday at 12 noon CEST (1400 Tbilisi/Dubai).

Till then, from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, a good evening. Be safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!.


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And finally, the sobering figures of the day globally, where the number of COVID-19 cases has now reached 884,075 and the number of deaths stand at 44,150

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Many people are self-isolating in a family context with children around them. How do we start explaing to children what is going on with coronavirus?  William Murray has been looking at some of the best expert advice out there, and put this short article together as today's public service announcement on Read it here

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 Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom's Hajj and Umrah minister tells Muslims to not make any plans or bookings until the situation is clear. The Kingdom had already suspended Umrah pilgrimage until further notice. Cancelling the annual hajj poilgrimage would be a dramatic decision for Saudi Arabia, whose King has the official title of Protector of the two Holy Mosques. Hajj is one of the obligations of Muslims in the Islamic faith

  United Arab Emirates 

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) released a GIF image showcasing the decrease of NO2 concentration in the GCC countries, between 26 November 2019 and 27 March 2020. Check the GIF here


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Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne had the covid-19 virus last week, and has since recovered. He made a video message during which he expressed his thanks to the medical teams, and his solidarity with the relatives and friends of those who died


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We now have a few updates from across the Caucasus region:

In Azerbaijan 61 news cases of COVID-19 were reported today in a statement from the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers.

According to information, in total, out of 359 people infected with coronavirus infection in Azerbaijan, 26 were cured, 5 died, 328 continue treatment in hospitals of special treatment. The condition of 7 of them is assessed as serious, 17 people - as moderate, the condition of the rest is stable. 4,518 people are in various quarantine zones.

Georgia: The government will fully cover utility bills for those consuming less than 200 kW of electricity and less than 200 cubic metres of gas for the months of March, April and May. This is one of several measures announced today.

Chechnya: In Chechnya, the first patient with coronavirus has died. The deceased is a woman born in 1938, who arrived in the republic from Moscow.

Dagestan: A complete self-isolation will start today. Taxes are reduced for anyone who falls under the simplified tax system and rent payments for state property were delayed until June 1. Taxes will also be reduced for tourism and industrial production.


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Getting information from Central Asia on the current pandemic is not always easy. Noman Ahmed from the research team has been looking at varuious stories. Here are his updates:


According to The Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism, the number of visitors is expected to fall by 80%. The Ministry says this is a global trend and the matter is out of their hands.  

Meanwhile, many nationals remain stuck abroad in Russia, Turkey and India. Citizens have been in contact with the MFA, but nothing has materialized yet to help them. Read more here

At home, the quarantine is causing an increase in domestic violence. Officials did not mention any specific figures, statistics and examples. These numbers were announced for anyone who needs help during the crisis.

On as more positive note, a Kyrgyz singer performed a small concert from his window. Check his Instagram video here



State media in Turkmenistan is gradually breaking the taboo on mentioning the pandemic but continues to deny the presence of any cases. Citizens are being barred from raising the topic in public and that they risk arrest if they speak about the pandemic.  Reporters without borders (RSF) released this news item yesterday.

As of March 24, all restaurants and cafes in Ashgabat remain closed.


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 Edinburgh Festivals cancelled


The Edinburgh Festivals, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which usually attracts thousands of artists and visitors from around the world, and which is held annually in August, have been cancelled. The festivals have run uninterrupted for seventy years.

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An update from Spain, the European country worst hit by the pandemic after Italy. Maximiliaan van Lange has this update:


The Spanish Ministry of Health reports that for the fifth consecutive day the number of fatalities from COVID-19 in Spain has exceeded 800. In the Southern European country, a total of more than 9,000 people have died from the virus, 51,000 patients are in hospital. Up to yesterday (31 March) more than 100,000 infections have been diagnosed.

In Spain a new phase of the lock down started on Monday (30 March). All non-essential services have been shut down and citizens only leave home when necessary, such as for shopping. This approach seems to be gradually giving results, but medical experts say it is still too early to draw firm conclusions.


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When covering a topic such as the coronavirus pandemic we must always keep in mind the human suffering it has brought all around us, and also the heroism of those on the front line fighting the pandemic, especially the doctors and nurses and paramedics all over the world.

Yesterday, it was announced that in Italy alone, so far, 66 doctors have died of coronavirus as they were trying to save the lives of many others. We salute them. In each country there are such heroes working every day and risking their lives. Let us all say thank you to them!


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Our colleague Noman Ahmed has been looking at some stories from across the Middle East, as the region, already battered by war, deals with the pandemic and its consequences:


  Kuwait announced measures this morning aimed to strengthen its economy against the pandemic. The central bank asked banks to ease loan repayments for companies affected. The sectors most impacted by the pandemic include aviation, hospitality and real estate. The stimulus package which was approved by the cabinet will provide liquidity for small and medium sized enterprises. 

As of yesterday, Kuwait had registered 289 coronavirus cases, a government source told Reuters.

Kuwait is also dealing with the impact of lower oil prices on its finances which could lead to a major fiscal deficit this year.


  Iran: President Hassan Rouhani says coronavirus infections are beginning to decline in some provinces. He stated that Tehran is ready to take tougher actions to contain the spread.


  UAE: Abu Dhabi boosted its large-scale testing capacity for coronavirus after a laboratory was built and made operational in just 14 days. The lab is capable of conducting by the thousands (real time RT-PCR) tests which is one of the most accurate laboratory methods for detecting, tracking and studying the coronavirus.


....and region-wide

The novel coronavirus crisis posed challenges for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) retailers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and other Middle Eastern countries. Many of FMCG are imported and not made locally. The challenges add to an already lagging economy of many countries in the region besides oil price declines and regional turbulence 

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Maximiliaan van Lange from the research team has been looking at how France is dealing with the thousands of homeless people on the streets of Paris and other major cities.


   In France, the government has allocated 15 million euros to deal with the needs of homeless people during the pandemic. In addition to housing homeless people in hotels, and those eligible will also immediately receive vouchers with which they can make purchases in certain shops, such as food and health care products. The vouchers are being distributed to 60.000 homeless people, half of whom are in and around Paris. In conversion, this new measure will allow homeless people to spend 7,00 euros per day.

According to the French government, it is unknown how many homeless people living on the streets are infected with the COVID-19 virus. The conservative estimate is about 1,000. They are being taken to special centres to receive medical assistance.



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The global picture remains grim. The latest figures show that the number of covid-19 cases reported world-wide has now reached 872,447, and there are 43,269 deaths

   The situation appear to be deteriorating very fast in the United States, where now there are 188,592 cases reported, and 4,056.

Last night a somber president Trump warned the American people that the next two weeks are going to be very difficult, and that the crisis may last for a long time.


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We start first with a round-up of the situation in the Caucasus Region


   Georgia continues to report comparatively very small number of cases of coronavirus - the latest figures from this morning was 115, although there are 5783 people in quarantine. The government says that this is due to draconian measures that it has put in place to control the virus, including a state of emergency and a night curfew from 2100-0600 hours. Georgians who normally are very individualistic and not particularly good at things like queuing appear to have taken the measures seriously and are complying with the rules.


   This does not seem to be the case in Azerbaijan where the government continues to appeal to the population to self-isolate at home and avoid public areas unless it is absolutely necessary. There have been five deaths in Azerbaijan so far from COVID-19, and the government has recorded 298 cases.

In an unusually emotional message, First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva this morning issued a statement to the people of Azerbaijan,

"I appeal to you as a daughter, as a wife, as a mother and as a grandmother! I appeal with the hope that you will hear and understand my words coming from the heart and addressed to each of you! I ask you, accept as an absolute necessity and duty of each of us - Everyone should stay at home for the coming twenty days. Stay with your families. I implore you not leave your homes unless there is an absolutely urgent need!

  In Armenia, the government last night pushed through in parliament a bill for location data contact tracing of coronavirus cases. The move was not approved in a vote in the morning as some government MPs were absent and it did not secure    the necessary number of votes, but the government presented the motion again in the evening, and it got adopted. The provision has now been signed into law by president Armen Sarkissian.

Armenia now has 571 cases of coronavirus and 3 people have died.

Also in the South Caucasus

Despite the danger of coronavirus presidential and parliamentary elections were held on Tuesday in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the turnout was high at 72.7%. There are as yet no reported cases of coronavirus in nagorno-Karabakh

In Abkhazia, another self-declared republic, another patient was moved for treatment in Georgian controlled territory


It is midday Central European Summer Time on Wednesday, 1 April 2020. It is 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and in Dubai


We welcome you back to this live blog on focusing on the coronavirus, and its global impact. 


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It is now 18.00 in Georgia, and the time when a nation-wide curfew comes into force. It is one of many radical measures taken across the world as governments struggle to contain the coroanvirus pandemic and the effects it is having on all asspects of life. The number of those infected has now reached 80356, and more than 39,000 have died.

We are now pausing this blog. We will be back with this live blog tomorrow from 1200-1600 Central European Summer Time, 1400-1800 in Tbilisi and Dubai. 

Till then we wish our readers a good evening. Be safe! Be healthy! Be Happy!

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For this of you alone at home alcohol may become a means of escaping the boredom of self-isolation. But this has its risks, as William Murray points out to us in today's public service announcement. Read it here 

To remind you, these public service announcements are aimed at helping our readers deal with issues related to the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.


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  The Netherlands

The Netherlands has been one of the European countries badly hit by coronavirus. Maximiliaan van Lange from our research team writes that 1,039 people have died from the consequences of the COVID-19 virus in the Netherlands. This is his update on the economic asspects of the pandemic 

Fifty Dutch economists today (31 March), in a joint letter, called on the Dutch government to take a joint European approach to the COVID-19 virus. According to the economists, in view of the common threat of the virus it is not the right time for the Netherlands to be pushing for economic reforms in countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal. The economists argue that if European member states do not take the lead through a joint approach, economic assistance will be taken up by the European Central Bank (ECB). This scenario will give less room for democratic control, because the choices are made by the ECB without government leaders being able to influence them. The economists propose to look at the already existing European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and to offer credit lines to member states along these lines.


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Whilst the world is focussed on the threat from the current coronavirus pandemic, in the Caucasus Region this new threat is playing out in the background of the threat from the unresolved conflicts that have ravaged the region for three decades. Earlier today reported on incidents that happened on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border yesterday (Read more here)

This morning there was also a statement from the co-Chair of the Geneva International Discussions that deal with the unresolved conflicts in Georgia. A meeting in this frameworkj was supposed to take place today and tomorrow, but had to be postponed for obvious reasons. The co-Chair said

As we mark the date when the 51st round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) was supposed to take place (31 March - 1 April 2020), we, the Co-Chairs of the GID (UN Representative Cihan Sultanoglu, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus Rudolf Michalka and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar), remain fully engaged to help address the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

While we commend the efforts of health professionals and others who are working hard to stop the spread of COVID-19, we appeal to all GID participants to respond to the call by UN Secretary General António Guterres to put aside mistrust and animosity, avoid antagonistic rhetoric, and work together to reach out to the most vulnerable.

In particular, we urge all GID participants to do their utmost to protect vulnerable conflict-affected populations, especially women, men and children in areas facing particular isolation. These populations need assistance and must not be allowed to suffer even more. We are encouraged by some collaborative approaches that have already taken place, but more needs to be done to ensure that all people, regardless of where they happen to live or what language they may speak, have equal access to health care. While co-operation across dividing lines, under other circumstances, may be challenging, we appeal to all participants of the GID to set aside differences and ensure that all individuals have the best possible access to testing and treatment.

On behalf of our organizations, we reiterate our readiness to assist and are at the disposal of participants as we, together, address this global threat.



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The coronavirus pandemic is creating disruption acroiss the world. In the Gulf region governments have stepped up to respond. Noman Ahmed has been looking at some of the developments

  United Arab Emirates

The UAE government will extend expats' visas for three months without any additional fees. Government services, including permits, licenses, and commercial registers can also be renewed for three months.

Meanwhile, The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services has launched the first "Self Sanitization Walk" for paramedics as they fight the coronavirus. The new device helps disinfect clothes that may catch the virus during the course of working with confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19. The "Self Sanitization Walk" sprays workers with a mist that disinfects clothes in less than 20 seconds. By detecting movements automatically, the device starts spraying only when a person passes through it, helping to save on energy. The device also has hand sanitizers.

The UAE government has again warned against the spreading of misinformation, after a series of rumours circulated questioning the official number of recorded cases of infection.

On the economic side, Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed announced that the Dubai government will infuse new equity into Emirates which had suspended all passenger services on March 25.

 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Watch this video in English from the Saudi Ministry of Health with advice on the coronavirus


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Noman Ahmed of our research team has an update on the situation in Azerbaijan where this afternoon it was announced that one other person has died from COVID-19

The Azerbaijani government added new measures requesting people to leave only to buy food and medicine, seek urgent medical care, or go to work. The measures will start today and continue until the 20th of April. You can see the new measures here 
Many organisations and businesses have been ordered to close, including restaurants, shops, sports and leisure facilities, cleaning services, cultural venues like museums and exhibitions, and teaching establishments.

The government has created a list of exceptions for businesses and organisations carrying out essential tasks. These include certain government agencies, health and social services, infrastructure services, transport and logistics services, financial organisations, delivery and repair services as well as pharmacies and grocery stores. Factories will also continue to run.

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And an update on the last story from Armenia. prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has now gone on facebook and said that the proposal will be put again to the national Assembly. He said this was necessary and the measure was for the purpose of the current medical emergency and not for political ends.


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In Armenia parliament failed to approve a measure proposed by the government that would have seen the authroities being able to access real time location of all mobile phone holders. The measure was being put forward as part of action required to contain the coronavirus and as part of the current state of emergency arrangements. The two opposition parties - PAP and bright Armenia, did not participate in the vote and because there were a number of government members absent the proposal did not secure enough support for the vote to be valid.


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Sad news from Belgium A 12-year-old Belgian girl who tested positive for coronavirus died suddenly on Monday, Steven Van Gucht, who chairs the government's scientific committee for coronavirus, said today. She appears to be the youngest person to die of the disease in Europe, following the deaths of a 16-year-old girl in France and a 14-year-old boy in Portugal.4,920 people are being treated for COVID-19 in Belgian hospitals.

Just over one thousand patients are in intensive care units (94 more than yesterday), taking up about half of Belgium's current capacity, according to Van Gucht. A total of 786 patients are on ventilators - 90 patients more than yesterday.

Another 98 people were reported to have died in the last 24 hours, while 94 more deaths were reported retroactively. The latter concerns people aged 65+, mostly care home residents, who died between March 11 and Sunday. That brings Belgium's death toll to 705, with 93 percent of the deceased older than 65.

The number of people confirmed to have contracted the virus stands at 12,775 after another 876 people tested positive in the last 24 hours.



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   In Iran, volunteer forces from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have been deployed throughout the capital, Tehran, in an attempt to disinfect surfaces and slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, FARS news agency reports from Tehran


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The G20 continues its efforts to co-ordinate the international response to COVID-19. Noman Ahmed from the research team has been following events

G20 trade ministers agreed yesterday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods. G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses

In a joint statement issued after a videoconference, the trade ministers pledged to take "immediate necessary measures" to facilitate trade, incentivize additional production of equipment and drugs, and minimize supply chain disruptions.
They agreed that all emergency measures would adhere to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and not create any unnecessary barriers to trade.

A senior World Bank official attending the meeting urged G20 members to agree to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products, and to eliminate or reduce tariffs on imports of key products.

G20 finance ministers and central bankers are set to meet today for the second time in just over a week to continue coordinating their response.

The IMF secretariat has already stated that the pandemic caused a global recession.

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Some 41 neighbourhoods and villages are now under quarantine. This was stated by president Reciop Tayip Erdogan on Monday in an address to the nation. he called on the public to self-quarantine in their homes. He also pointed out that Turkey did not face any problems concerning its food supply, and that it had a surplus in agricultural production.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to 10,827 in Turkey as 1,610 more people tested positive for the virus, according to the Health Ministry. Turkey reports 168 deaths from the covid-19 virus

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We start first with a quick summary from across the Wider Caucasus Region

In Georgia, all public transport has now been suspended, and the country is preparing for its first night of curfew starting at 1800 today. The curfew was declared yesterday by prime minister Giorgi Gakharia under the provisions of the State of Emergency currently in force.  It is prohibited for anyone to be outside of their homes from 21:00-06:00. Anyone venturing outside must always carry identification documents.  The number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia has now reached 110.

Armenia: The government has approved three new economic assistance packages targeting various groups affected by the spread of the virus, including unemployed workers and pregnant women.

Azerbaijan In Baku, the Municipal authorities are conducting a massive disinfection of the city. More than two thousand Baku municipal workers are disinfecting 11,500 state-owned residential buildings, as well as parts of cooperative houses. In addition, twice a day, they wash the streets and avenues of Baku.

Nagorno-Karabakh Elections are taking place on Tuesday in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). 14 candidates are contesting for the post of president, whilst 10 political parties and two blocs are contesting seats for the territory's parliament.  The elections are being held amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. There have not been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nagorno-Karabakh, but special precautions are in place at polling stations. Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh are not recognised by the international community. Read more on here

North Caucasus

In the republic of Adygea in the Russian North Caucasus  a universal isolation regime has been introduced. All residents of Adygea should not leave their place of residence, except when there is an urgent need for medical care, medicines, food, or to get their place of employment.

In Kabardino Balkaria, the head of the republic, Kazbek Kokov, has inspected the readiness of the new coronavirus ward at the 1st City Hospital of Nalchik. Kokov said on Instagram that the ward was equipped with 230 beds and 18 ventilators. He said that more than 100 additional beds for patients with COVID-19 would be created at Prokhladny City Hospital in the north of the republic.



It is Tuesday, 31 March 2020. It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time, 1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai.

Good day and welcome to this live blog on focusing on the coronavirus pandemic andf its impact


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We are now closing this blog for today. The economic implications of the coronavirus crisis is now high on the agenda of governments and policymakers. Most countries are in lockdown, and bracing themselves for worse news to come. But yet again we hear stories of solidarity and of people reaching out to help each. Together we are stronger. We will resume our blog tomorrow Tuesday, 31 March at 1200 noon Central European Summer Time (1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai) In the meantime: Be safe! Be healthy! Be Happy! Goodnight.

1545 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

A word about today's public service announcements. These announcements are prepared for by William Murray and their aim is to assist our readers and subscribers in dealing with the different challenges that the coronavirus pandemic is throwing at us in these difficult times. Today he looks at how literature can help defeat boredom as each one of us joins another 2.5 billion people in self-isolating. Read it here  

Maybe it is time to read that thick book that has been gathering dust on your shelf for ages. We wish you happy reading.

1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 The Georgian police have been working hard to try to keep the population to abide by the restrictions of self-quarantine and social distancing. In this picture they are seen breaking up a football match.


1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 US president Donald Trump accidently tagged a Saudi man in a tweet intended for the Food and Drug Administration. Noman Ahmed has the story:

 MLK, ( found himself a star at home after being tagged by the world's strongest man. It then caused a series of sarcastic retweets by Americans and Saudis alike. Follow the thread here  

 On a serious note, The Saudi Minister of Education issued several extraordinary measures aimed at improving the conditions of students on scholarship programs abroad, and those accompanying them. The measures include financial allocations, medical insurance and treatment payments. At home, the government banned entry and exit to the city of Jeddah, Qatif, Riyadh, Makkah and Madinah besides extending curfew hours to start at 3 p.m. local time. Suspension of public transport services including trains, buses and taxis has been extended until further notice.

1450 CEST (1650 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Social distancing does not seem to come naturally for people in Azerbaijan. This video was posted this afternoon on social media showing people crowing outside a metro station in Baku. In the meantime Azerbaijan has announced 64 new cases of coronavirus. In the meantime the government has announced that Min istry of Interior troops will join police in patrolling in Baku to ensure compliance with the regulations put in place for social distancing.


1445 CEST (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The German Council of Economic Experts (Sachverständigenrat) reports that the German economy is in recession because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maximiliaan van Lange from the research team has been looking at developments.

The Sachverständigenrat, an advisory board of economic experts, reports that the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany will cause a recession. They say that due to the lack of data, it is difficult to predict how the German economy will develop further during this crisis, and this will depend on how the pandemic develops.

Experts calculate that in a favourable scenario the German economy will shrink by 2.8 percent and in an unfavourable scenario by 5.4 percent. In the best-case scenario, the economy will recover quickly, leading to growth of 3.7 percent in 2021. The council calls this the most plausible scenario. According to the Sachverständigenrat, the care sector must be supported in order to limit the economic damage. In addition, the government must ensure that the measures to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus are complied with. Furthermore, the economy must be supported with money. Although the Sachverständigenrat predicts a recession for Germany, the council remains optimistic about the crisis for the time being.


1430 CEST (1630 Tbilisi Dubai)

Reuters news agency is reporting that the EXPO2020 in Dubai is going to be postponed for one year. 11 million peoiple were expected to visit the EXPO in the autumn. An official decision is likely later today.


1415 CEST (1615 Tbilisi/Dubai)

This blog has been looking at the situation in the Middle East, and Noan Ahmed from our Research Team has these stories from three countries in that region

  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government told people to stay home or face fines. The national disinfection campaign was extended until April 5. However, people are permitted to travel out to buy food or medical supplies, for emergencies and work.

Fines of $544 will be issued even outside curfew hours of 8 PM to 6 AM. People found breaching the night-time curfew face even tougher penalties. The UAE has reported 570 cases, three deaths and 58 recoveries.


Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah said that the fight against Coronavirus is even harder than the 2006 war against Israel. This topic is important, especially since the Ministry of Health is in the hands of Hezbollah. Nasrallah also sharply criticized the banking system and entrepreneurs, urging them to use the funds to help Lebanon and its healthcare system in difficult times.

Many in the public blame Hezbollah for causing the epidemic in Lebanon due to the group's close collaboration with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Earlier it was reported that among those who brought the infection to Lebanon, there were also members of a high-ranking Iranian delegation that visited the country in mid-February.


An internally displaced Syrian girl wears a face mask as members of the Syrian Civil defence sanitize the Bab Al-Nour camp in Azaz, Syria © REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo

Syria imposed a lockdown and a nationwide curfew measures to curb the virus spread. The first death was confirmed this morning. The confirmed cases rose to 9 from an earlier 5. Medics and witnesses say there are many more.

The moves to shut businesses and schools have spread fear among residents already exhausted by the war. Several cities saw panic buying, with residents saying they saw food shortages and a surge in demand that pushed up prices ahead of the start of the curfew.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the country has a limited capacity to deal with a rapid spread of the virus.

Opposition figures and independent politicians point to ties with Iran. They say the virus is also being transmitted by members of Iranian-backed militias who are fighting alongside the Syrian army, as well as Shiite pilgrims who visit shrines in Syria. Iraqi health officials confirmed yesterday that returning Shi'ite pilgrims from Syria have tested positive for the coronavirus.


1330 CEST (1530 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Russia at first appeared not to be takng the pandemic seriously, but that now has changed dramitically and the Russian government is following the same trajectory as other European countries.

The data for Russia shows 1836 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9 deaths.

This morning the Russian newspaaper Kommersant ran an article about the situation in Moscow

Starting from Monday, March 30, Moscow and the surrounding suburbs began to transition to a hard quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection. All residents of the region, except those employed in key industries, are prohibited from leaving their homes expect for emergencies, food and medicine. According to Kommersant, the rules will become even stricter in the future. Right now, people still can exit and enter Moscow, but all other movement within the city will soon require special permits.

A source told Kommersant, that the decision was coordinated with the Russian government and the presidential administration. The Kremlin considers Moscow’s measures "justified," Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin emphasized that the restrictions do not prohibit anyone from entering or leaving Moscow. However, a source close to the mayor’s office told Kommersant that the procedure for issuing special passes for moving inside the city is in the works. First of all, "for delivery services, employees of logistics companies that provide grocery chains with products, as well as for employees of such chains". In the coming week, a "smart system" will be deployed to monitor compliance with the quarantine regime.

The question of punishing those who violate the quarantine measures remains open for both Moscow and the region. Partner at YUST law firm Alexander Bolomatov told the newspaper that there was no responsibility for non-compliance with the decree at the federal level, so the document is more of a recommendation at the moment. Until a control mechanism and specific sanctions are adopted at the federal level, the police will be able to issue warnings, but not fines.

On the other hand, experts told Kommersant that "individual restrictions on rights and freedoms" can be established "in a state of emergency," and at the moment, no emergency was officially announced. Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building Andrey Klishas said that, "The introduction of such restrictions is the exclusive competence of the Federal Assembly and the President."



1315 CEST (1515 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Economic sentiment in Europe plunged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our colleague Maximiliaan van Lange from our research team has been looking at developments:

 The European Commission reports today (30 March) that the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe has resulted a historic decline in the economic sentiment of businesses and consumers in March. Sentiment is declining in all business sectors, in services such as tourism, hotels and restaurants, and retail trade. The European sentiment rate of industry, services and consumers fell from 8.9 points to 94.5 points in March, the sharpest decline in 35 years. The pandemic has put an end to production expectations, causing orders and stocks to fall.

The worst fall was in Italy, with a decrease of 17.6 points, followed by Germany with 9.8 points less, and to a somewhat lesser extent in France, the Netherlands and Spain. In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is furious that the Netherlands and Germany are blocking the European emergency fund. According to former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, there is no 'transfer union' or 'one-way street' when it comes to money transfers from North to South.


1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

As we have been saying in the last days the impact of the coronavirus crisis is way beyond the health sector. Noman Ahmed looks at ther situation from the perspective of human rights in the Middle East

The fight against Coronavirus in the Middle East is likely to have setbacks in liberties. Armoured vehicles, arrests and surveillance have raised concerns about human rights. More than three billion people are now living under lockdown globally and in some cases, strict surveillance.

Critics have voiced fears that authoritarian states will overreach even after the pandemic has passed. The sight of military vehicles is not surprising in many countries where mass protests were held last year.

Activists have called upon authorities to release prisoners and not to overuse their power.

1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Maximiliaan van Lange is monitoring for us the situation. He reports:

The British airline easyJet will stop all commercial flights as of today (30 March). At the request of the European authorities, easyjet will still operate additional repatriation flights.

The airline reports that the reason for this decision is "unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by countries in response to the coronavirus and the implementation of lockdowns in many European countries". easyJet has carried out more than 650 repatriation flights for more than 45,000 people in recent days. It is unknown when commercial flights will resume.

Last week easyjet already took the decision to cancel a large part of the commercial flights. The fact that now all planes remain on the ground is considered more cost effective.

The fleet of easyJet consists of 344 aircraft.


1215 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Our colleague Noman Ahmed from our Research Team has been moniroting the bsituation across the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus Region. He writes:

• Cases in Turkey continue to spike. Yesterday, 1815 new cases were reported reaching a total of 9,217. Total deaths stand at 131
• Israel is another country, following the line of the past week, where COVID-cases are increasing at a fast pace. This comes as no surprise as Israel continues to upscale its testing. 628 cases were reported since yesterday reaching a total of 4,247. Total deaths stand at 15.
• Other countries in MENA, Central Asia and Caucasus witnessed an increase yet at average figures witnessed last week. Almost all countries, or major cities/regions are in lockdown while regulations are enforced, and penalties are issued.Iran

Prison riots and rising deaths were reported by state media. Iran had previously released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic. Other prisoners broke out while destroying cameras and causing other damage in two sections housing violent criminals. The estimated 50,000 who remain behind bars are violent offenders and so-called "security cases". They are often dual nationals and others with Western ties.


1205 CEST (1405 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The news about the spread of the coronavirus across the world is also grim today. The number of cases world-wide has reached 725,230, whilst the number of deaths is now 34,034.

We have a round up of news from across the Caucasus Region


The government is pushing through tough measures in response to the spread of the virus. The cabinet of Ministers and the National Assembly held urgent meetings on Monday morning.  On March 26 Government adopted a stimulus package of 300 million USD (five programs). Today the cabinet is discussing an additional three stimulus programs.

More controversially, the National Assembly is discussing a government motion that would oblige Armenians to download a special app that monitors their movement.

Armenia has up to this morning report 482 COVID-19 cases and 3 deaths


The Azerbaijani parliament is also meeting, with MPs older than 65 years excused from attending.

Azerbaijan currently reports 209 cases of COVID-19 and 4 deaths


In Georgia the government reports 98 cases of COVID-19 and just under five thousand people are in quarantine.

A tense situation developed this morning in the town of Marneuli, that has been under lockdown for a week. Dozens of people gathered in front of the town hall demanding assistance from the government. "The virus will not kill us, hunger will" they were heard saying. The Mayor of Marneuli has been trying to calm people down and to urge them to go home.

In a different twist, last night a 45 year old person living in the Gali region of Abkhazia was allowed by the de fact authorities to transfer to a hospital facility in Tbilisi controlled territory near Zugdidi.

Georgia continued to issue fines for those defying emergency rules. Yesterday, the Georgian Interior Ministry said that it fined 125 people. 96 persons were fined for public gathering; 3 legal entities and 8 persons - for violating restrictions in the sphere of business activities; 5 persons - for transporting cross-town passengers on a minibus; 13 persons - for violating rules of quarantine and self-isolation. See the press release by the ministry here

And an update from the North Caucasus region


A video was circulated widely showcasing workers from the Federal Service for Observing the Defence of the Rights of Consumers and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) arriving at a block of flats in Makhachkala, to identify everyone who had been in contact with a patient who recently tested positive for COVID-19. The patient herself is currently hospitalised in isolation at the Center for Infectious Diseases in Makhachkala. See the video here 






Welcome to
It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time, 1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai, on Monday, 30 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 working with colleagues and associates in a number of other countries.

read the live blog from 25-29 March here

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