Live Blog
08 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


Wednesday 8 April 2020


1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today

Across Europe, Spain, Italy and France continue to report high death tolls as a result of covid-19 as do some other European countries and the United States. Coronavirus has now reached the conflict regions of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Reports of divisions in how the European leaders want to approach the task of dealing with the economic outcome of the pandemic causes concern in many circles.

We will be back with this live blog tomorrow at 12 noon CEST (1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai)

Till then from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, a Good Evening to everyone. Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!.

1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Before we pause this blog we have a few updates from across the MENA region, compiled by Noman Ahmed:



The nationwide night-time curfew is extended until April 23. Curfew would now start one hour later at 8 pm local time each evening and is for 24 hours during weekends. 

 Jordan/West Bank:

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi spoke with the Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee, Saeb Erekat, about efforts to mobilize financial support to UNRWA, the UN agency looking after Palestinian refugees which  is already facing a financial crisis,  to enable it to continue offering vital services. 


The Bahraini government extended restrictions until April 23. Restaurants and cafes will be limited to takeaway and delivery services. Public gatherings will be restricted to five people or less.  


1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Its now time for our wellness moment.

Over the last three weeks William Murray has been telling us how to keep safe and sane in these astonishing times. Today he goes a step further and suggests how we can keep ourselves entertained. Watching a movie does not mean going to the cinema, or even joining Netflix.

Will explains how we can do this at home and for free (and legal) in todays's public service announcement on  here


1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Eurovision in Rotterdam

Some days ago we had to break to you the news that this year there will be no Eurovision song festival. It was for us even sadder, because this year's festival was due to be held in Rotterdam. Now Maximiliaan van Lange has news about what is going to happen next:

In a letter to the city council on Wednesday (8 April), the Municipal Executive of Rotterdam announced that Rotterdam is expected to lose 6.7 million euros because the Eurovision Song Contest is moved to 2021. These costs are in addition to the previously announced amount of 15.5 million euros for organizing the song festival. The letter states however that Rotterdam is "wholeheartedly willing" to organize the Song Contest in 2021 

An there you have it. Everyone is determined to make the Eurovision in 2021 in Rotterdam one big party. We will be there!

1435 CEST (1535 Tbilisi Dubai)

We are now going to do our daily review of the situation in the South Caucasus which today has been compiled by our team in Tbilisi and by Ahmed Noman from our Research team based in The Hague.


Azerbaijan adopted a decree to provide unemployment benefits. Registered unemployed citizens will receive a sum of ₼190 ($110) per month during the special quarantine regime.

The minister of Labour and Social Protection said that only one spouse will be allowed to apply from every family but any children above 18 will be eligible to apply separately.

Azerbaijan currently has 717 covid-19 cases reported and 8 fatalities.

Read the decree here


Armenian nationals stranded in Moscow's Domodedovo Airport were able to return home on two charter flights on 6 April and 7 April. Those who returned will stay in quarantine for 14 days. However, 200 still remain in Moscow and will be taken to hotels until next flights can be arranged.

Over 150 tickets were purchased for those who could not afford them through personal donations.

The total number of cases in Armenia now stands at 881 cases and there are 9 deaths reported.

There was a very interesting intervention in the debate about coronavirus in Armenia on Tuesday by the country's first President, Levon Ter Petrosyan.

He generally gives his support for the measures that have been introduced by the government of prime minister Nikol Pashinyan. He appealed to his two successors, Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan to stop using their media outlets to attack the government on its cornoavirus policies, and warns of the dangers ahead.

For an overview of how Armenbia is coping with coronavirus and the challenges ahead you can also read Benyamin Poghosyan's analysis yesterday on here


The closure of agricultural markets leaves many unemployed in Georgia. All markets in Tbilisi were closed since yesterday leaving hundreds without a source of income. Similar and gradual measures were taken all across the country.

‘I don't have any other income, what should I do, steal from others?' one market worker said. Market stall owners need to pay bank loans which is impossible without any running income.

In the meantime this morning saw a hike in prices for food in shops inm Tbilis, something that is bound to create problems quite soon.

The Georgian government has appeared so far to have a solid grip on the crisis. There have been some weak points. Three mayors - those for Georgia's second city Kutaisi, as well Zestafoni and Kaspi have resigned. Sopurces told they were just overhwelmed by the crisis and could not handle the pressure.

In Georgia the latest figures are 208 confirmed cases and three deaths.

We have no new updates from the North Caucasus at this stage


1350 CEST (1550 Tbilisi/Dubai)

In this blog we are giving particulare attention to the impact of coronavirus on the world religions. In Islam the holy Muslim month of Ramadan starts in two weeks time.  Noman Ahmed has been looking at how they propose to deal with it in Egypt


Egypt will ban any public religious gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which is due to start in about two weeks. As per the recommendation of health experts, the government announced the decision yesterday to halt all gatherings.

Muslims usually break the fast at sunset in the mosques and later spend time with families. To continue with the social distancing protocols, no gatherings will be allowed. Egypt has reported more than 1,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with more than 250 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.



1320 CEST (1520 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  There is a continuous stream of bad news from the European institutions in Brussels. Finance Ministers of the Eurozone yesterday failed to agree a formula for funding an econoimic recovery of coronavirus, despite meeting late into the night.

Now another story, Maximiliaan van Lange brings us up to date with the resignation of the President of the European Research Council

President Mauro Ferrari of the European Research Council (ERC), resigned three months after he took office due to frustration with the European fight against the COVID-19 virus. Ferrari failed in setting up a scientific programme from the Research Council to combat the spread of COVID-19. The governing body of the ERC, the Scientific Council, rejected Ferrari's plan. The argument for this is that the council should only fund research proposed by scientists themselves and not carry out its own programmes. In collaboration with Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen Ferrari developed a second plan. This plan then broke down in the Brussels bureaucracy, according to Ferrari.


1310 CEST (1510 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Once more we want to highlight the plight of those living in refugee campsIt's easy enough to wash your hands and stay away from people - when you have running water and your own living space.

Across the world, thousands of refugees and migrants are living in camps that are unsanitary and crowded, and it's not easy to avoid catching the virus. 




1250 CEST (1450 Tbilisi/Dubai)

This website is committed to fighting against fake news, and for this reason want to share this story about a fake BBC website

The BBC and Twitter moved quickly yesterday to remove a fake account impersonating the corporation's Breaking News Twitter page, but not before it had managed to spread an untrue story about the health of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The fake post was picked up by a prominent TV channel in Pakistan, which it aired for a short while as a news flash. It subsequently aired an apology after realising its error.

It's not the first time that fake BBC accounts have appeared on Twitter during the Covid-19 crisis, and they have been deleted almost immediately.

So-called "imposter content" is a headache for news organisations because they spread misleading news while damaging their reputations.

While most cases appear to be trolling or mischief-making, some fake accounts are attempts to direct readers to their own websites for financial gain.


1245 CEST (1445 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The first case of covid-19 in Nagorno-Karabakh was reported yesterday. The man was identified as a resident of Mirik village, and had returned to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia. His contacts, a total of 17 people, have been isolated

In an effort to contain the pandemic the de facto authorities of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic introduced a self-isolation regime has been set for the residents of Mirik village where 40 families dwell.

Nagorno-Karabakh is preparing for the second round of elections for a new president. The first round was held on 31 March. You can read more in this analysis prepared for by Benyamin Poghosyan here


1215 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)

For the next hour or so we are going to be looking at how the pandemic is impacting the situation on some of the conflict regions in the Caucasus and the Middle East. Here are two reports from Noman Ahmed from the research team on developments in Abkhazia and in Palestine.


The first case of covid-19 was confirmed in Abkhazia yesterday. The patient has been hospitalised in the Gudauta hospital in Gagra. The patient arrived from Moscow where he was on a business trip. The Abkhaz Epidemiological Service is conducting an investigation to find out who came into contact with the patient.

The first restrictions in Abkhazia were introduced on March 25th, and a state of emergency was introduced on the 28th.

The administrative border with Georgia has been closed since March 13th, and the border with Russia is now also closed until April 20, according to a decree signed by de facto Acting President of Abkhazia Valeri Bganba.

To combat the spread of the virus in Abkhazia, a Department of Health's Operational Headquarters was established, and special tent camps have been deployed in hospitals to examine patients with symptoms similar to those associated with the coronavirus infection.

Abkhazia is a self-declared republic that seceded from Georgia and its independence is only recognised by Russia and few other countries. There are reports that some patients have been moved from Abkhaz controlled territory in the Gali region to the neighbouring Georgian town of Zugdidi for treatment. The Georgian authorities have indicated they are willing to assist any Abkhaz that need medical treatment because of Covid-19.


The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) warned that Israeli settlements have become epicentres of coronavirus and may threaten neighbouring Palestinian towns and villages.

The Palestinian Authority (PA)called for workers working in residential areas to stay at their homes. The virus has already appeared in some Palestinian areas. Total cases reached 261 with 1 death.

Workers, however, face a dilemma. They can stay in Israel where wages are much higher, but the outbreak is more severe or return home to quarantine and unemployment in the West Bank.

Labourers were allowed to remain in Israel where construction and agriculture are deemed necessary sectors. Employers will not be responsible for their housing. On the other hand, PA warned that it has limited health capacity and would not be able to test everyone.

In villages where PA cannot access due to Israeli restriction, police called on volunteers to enforce coronavirus controls. All visitors to villages are checked for temperature and symptoms. If suspected, officials are called from Ramallah to conduct a test. Volunteers talk via an app, called Zello, which functions like a walkie-talkie.


1201 CEST (1401 (Tbilisi/Dubai)

To continue on the situation in France, Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team, has this update


Jean-François Delfraissy, head of the medical scientific council of the French government has pleaded for a longer lockdown period in France. The country should extend the current lockdown currently scheduled to last until April 15, by at least two weeks. The council thus joins Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who at the beginning of this month also called for an extension of the measures.



Good Day, It is Wednesday 8 April 2020

Welcome back to this live blog on where we are following the developments around the coronavirus pandemic. It is now 12 noon Central European Summer Time, equivalent to 14.00 in Tbilisi and in Dubai. We will be live for the next four hours.

Last night many parts of the world saw the supermoon - a moment when the moon appears to be larger and brighter than usual. In the city of Paris the moon rose between the two towers of the Basilica of Notre Dame, over a city that has been gravely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We use this picture as our coverpage for this blog for today - a sign of hope for a bright future.


Last night it was also announced that the number of deaths in France has now exceeded 10,000. We express our solidarity with the people of France in this sad moment.


1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today. The world marks World Health Day today - an opportunity to remember all those engaged in keeping us all healthy and safe. The numbers of those infected and dying from coronavirus continues to rise, The virus knows no border, nor status. But across the world the fight to defeat it goes on.

We will be back tomorrow Wednesday, at 12 noon CEST (1400 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai) with more updates, news and analysis from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, and our associates in a number of other countries. Till then Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!

1555 CEST (1755 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We want to finish where we started with this blog four hours ago, by saying thank you to all doctors, nurses and medical staff who are on the front line fighting the covid-19 virus. Today is World Health Day and this message is therefore particularly significant


1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The pandemic continues to impact rekligious activity across the world as we have seen on this blog earlier


A general closure is being imposed across Israel ahead of the Jewish Passover holiday. No travel will be allowed between cities between Tuesday evening and Friday morning, and in Jewish-majority areas nobody should leave their home from Wednesday afternoon - when Jewish families will have their ritual Seder meal - until Thursday morning.


1540 CEST (1740 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The Netherlands and Belgium are both reporting that the number of deaths from coronavirus in each country has now exceeded two thousand: The Netherlands has 2101 deaths, of which 234 are in the last twenty four hours. Belgium is reporting 2035 deaths, of which 403 in the last twenty four hours.


1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

A piece of interesting news from Strasbourg. The building of the European Parliament in the city is to be used as a COVID-19 testing centre. One wonder how many other buildings are going to be turned into emergency centres while this pandemic rages on.

  The European Parliament's Strasbourg facilities will host a screening centre and a COVID-19 consultation centre, according to France's European minister Amélie de Montchalin.  

"With President David Sassoli, we have made it possible for the European Parliament to turn its Strasbourg buildings, during the time of the crisis, into a screening centre and a COVID-19 consultation centre," Amélie de Montchalin told local media on 6 April.

"This should take shape over the next few days in conjunction with the Bas-Rhin prefecture and the city of Strasbourg," Montchalin added.

Parliament President David Sassoli said last Thursday (2 April) that he had put "our own patient care centre and a fleet of 100 vehicles at the disposal of the Brussels authorities" and was ready to do the same in Luxembourg and Strasbourg if necessary.


1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Noman Ahmed from our research team has been looking at some other stories from across the MENA region

 Saudi Arabia 

Saudi private-sector businesses have been told that they can cut their employees' wages and working hours but only with the employees' consent. The reduced wages must accurately reflect the number of hours worked, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said.

"Workers can report any violation through the ministry's website, channels and social media platforms," Saad Al-Hammad, director of Human Resources Affairs at the ministry said 

The ministry said its aim was to protect employees from dismissal or loss of contractual benefits during the pandemic. 


Turkey announced that it will restrict its military movements in Syria in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The entry and exit of Turkish troops and staff into operation zones in Syria will now be subject to permission from the head of the army. All Turkish borders with neighbouring states have also been sealed.

"As Turkey takes the risk of contagion more seriously in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, this will inevitably dampen Turkish combat operations, especially in Syria, where Ankara has a large number of troops deployed," Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute said. 

Despite a ceasefire last month, fighting between Turkish troops and Syrian army continued. 


The Lebanese government called for international financial support to implement plans tackling the country's crippling economic crisis.

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that their priority was to resolve the nation's financial meltdown which had been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. They asked for a total of $11 billion from the member states of the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon.  

The impact of restrictions on movement imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the economic turmoil in Lebanon. According to the World Bank, poverty rates in the country have increased to 40 percent.

1445 CEST (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Arab World

In some cultures shaking hands is such an important ritual that not doing it can be construed as offensive. 

A Twitter Poll by Arab News asked what ways people were using to greet each other during the corona crisis, results are as follows: 



Meanwhile, artists took social media to entertain their fans, look here for some of these performances. Have a look on the website of ArabNews

1430 CEST (1630 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Eurozone Finance Ministers will meet in video conference this afternoon to discuss measures to mitigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisisThe finance ministers hope to agree on half a trillion euros worth of economic aid to finance recovery from the coronavirus epidemic, a discussion that has sown divisions as the bloc struggles with the outbreak.

The ministers meet via videoconference from 1500 CEST on Tuesday to prepare a list of ideas for further economic aid that EU leaders might then endorse. With no agreement on debt mutualisation, they will focus on three or four steps that can be taken more swiftly.

  • The first is standby credit lines from the euro zone bailout fund of up to 2% of a country's gross domestic product, or 240 billion euros in total. That will come with minimal conditions focused on health issues to alleviate Italy's concerns it would be told to reform its economy to get access to the money.
  • The second is granting the European Investment Bank 25 billion euros of extra guarantees so it can step up lending by 200 billion euros, on top of a 40 billion-euro increase in lending already under way.
  • The third is support for the EU executive's plan to raise 100 billion euros on the market against 25 billion euros of guarantees from all 27 governments in the bloc, to subsidise wages of workers so that companies can cut working hours of employees rather than sack them.
  • Finally, the ministers are likely to back a plan by the executive European Commission and the Netherlands to create an emergency support fund issuing grants for medical supplies and health care, which could reach some 20 billion euros.

1345 CEST (1545 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The first case of covid-19 has been registered in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Armenian media reports citing the territory's de facto authroties.

1315 CEST (1515 Tbilisi/Dubai)


On this blog we are following also events in Iran, where the virus spread rapidly at the start of this crisis. Iran appears now to be looking at an exit strategy, although this eems to be two months away as yet. FARS news agency in Tehran this afternoon carrried this report:

Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki stressed effective measures to control coronavirus epidemic, expressing the hope that the disease would be controlled in Iran by late May.

"At present, the country is in the phase of disease management and we should not imagine that we have reached the harness and control phase. Today is the time for full-fledged combat against the virus. God willing, we will control coronavirus by late May. The virus should be controlled in the minimum possible time," Namaki said, addressing the Iranian legislators in an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Tuesday.

He noted that at least 30% to 50% of hospital beds are still vacant across Iran and nearly 15,000 beds are ready to keep the patients who are recovering from coronavirus disease.

"We have now moved down to tank 6th in terms of deaths," Namaki said, adding that the country's situation in treatment of patients will improve in the next few days.

Iranian Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced on Monday that over 60,000 people in the country have been infected with coronavirus, including 2,274 new cases in the last one day, adding that 3,739 patients have also died so far.

1300 CEST (1500 Tbilisi/Dubai)

   Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia finds itself at the centre of attention during this global crisis. On the one hand as Chair of the G20 group of leading economies in the world it needs to provide co-ordination and leadership to the world community. As a leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia is at the centre of the current dispute on oil prices. And as the home to the most jholy sites of Islam, Saudi Arabia is supposed to welcome millions of Hajj pilgrims in a few weeks time. Not an easy time therefore for the country and its leadership as they try to keep both their citizens and visitors safe, whilst fulfilling all their political, economic and religious obligations. Here are some updates from Noman Ahmed of our research team:

Oil Crisis 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that some 300m people are at risk in the current oil crisis threatens livelihoods.

If the crisis continues, millions could lose their jobs with implications lasting on the long run. Fatih Birol, executive director outlines his remarks and diplomacy efforts here:


Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and the cities of Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Alkhobar, under a 24 hours curfew.

Entry to or exit from those areas will not be allowed, except for vital workers. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for medical or food needs but only between 6 AM and 3 PM. Sanitization efforts are being coordinated.


1245 CEST (1445 Tbilisi/Dubai)


France has been one of the countries most hit by covid-19. The latest data shows France with nearly 100,000 covid-19 confirmed cases and the number of fatalities is close to 9000.

Some updates from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

  • According to the French Minister of Economic Affairs Bruno Le Maire, France is facing its deepest recession since the end of the Second World War. The previous low was reached in 2009 when the economy contracted by 2.9% as a result of the 2007-2009 credit crisis. The economic blow will be much higher in 2020, according to Minister Le Maire.

In France, stringent isolation measures against the COVID-19 virus have been in place since 17 March. The measures have led to the complete closure of economic sectors. The result, according to Le Maire, will be a historically deep recession in France.

The economic statistics office Insee in Paris supports the theses of Le Maire. Insee previously predicted that the isolation measures would cost the economy 3 per cent if they last a month. If the rules were to be extended by two months, it would knock 6 per cent off the gross domestic product.

  • An almost an impossible medical-logistical operation is ongoing in France. High-speed trains are being used to quickly transport patients off the COVID-19 virus to other parts of the country. Trains are serving as "driving hospitals" to transport patients. Due to the pandemic, hospitals in some regions are overloaded, and in other areas, the beds are still empty for the time being. The railway wagons are disinfected and a maximum of four patients can lie in one carriage.

In addition to trains, France also uses airplanes, ambulances, helicopters, and naval ships to move patients around the country. Over the past two weeks, hundreds of patients have been moved around the country on trains. International evacuations are also ongoing. Over 140 patients have already been transferred to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Luxembourg.


1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

And from the North Caucasus, an update from Chechnya

Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov criticised Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and the federal authorities for being ‘badly informed' after the latter scolded ‘some regions' for locking down their administrative borders. On Sunday, the Chechen authorities completely closed the administrative borders of the republic for entry and exit.

Mishustin called on regional governments 'not to confuse regional authority with federal prerogatives'.

Kadyrov denied closing borders for transit goods but confirmed that they had no intention to let non-residents into the Chechen Republic.


1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)


The latest data from Azerbaijan shows confirmed cases and 7 fatalities.

The Government ordered the release of some prisoners due to the present situation. They were let out this morning.

In the meantime the Azerbaijan parliament is conducting buisness remotely. Today several committees met via video link

1215 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)


Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced via Facebook that Armenia is likely to begin producing COVID-19 tests.

The state will allocate $550,000 to the country's Institute of Molecular Biology. The government has set a goal of testing 1000 people a day starting this week. Check the PM's Q&A here:

The Prime Minister also assured that no utility cuts would happen. Armenia will also hold talks with Russia regarding gas prices.

The latest data from Armenia shouws the country registered 853 cases,and 8 deaths

Writing this morning on in an analysis on the impact of the coronvirus crisis on the Armenian economy, Benyamin Poghosyan warns that many Armenians face a lowering of their living standards. He concludes

Armenia can't avoid an economic slowdown, and the key issue is to prevent a repeat of the 2009 situation, when Armenia, as a result of 2007-2008 financial crisis, registered a 14.4 percent decline in GDP. In the present scenario any results better than 10 percent decline in GDP in 2020 could be perceived as a sort of success.   read it here


1210 CEST (1410 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We want to start first with updates from across the Caucasus Region


The latest data shows that Georgia has  195 confirmed cases; 2 have died and 4708 people are under quarantine

Today is an important religious holiday for the Georgian Orthodox Church - the fest of the Annunciation.

Services have been held in Georgian churches despite government appeals, but the crowds appeared to be small, and respecting an element of social distancing.

This screen grab from a ceremony at Sameba Cathedral this morning. Catholicos Patriarch Ilya II was supposed to attend, but he was absent on doctor's advice.

Some other updates from Georgia:

The homeless could be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus, Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria has warned. Lomjaria called on the authorities to identify homeless people who are unable to comply with restrictions of the state of emergency.

Violators could face fines of ₾3,000 ($950) or up to three years in prison for repeated offences.

There is no official data on the number of homeless people in Georgia.

On another note, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced that it would step up cooperation with Georgia. Georgia's Finance Minister announced that the assistance will ensure economic stability through channeling the funds into various domains such as emergency liquidity, working capital and trade finance.




Welcome. It is Tuesday, 7 April 2020

It is 12 midday Central European Summer Time (CEST); 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai

We resume this live blog focusing on the coronavirus and its global impact.

  • Today is World Health Day, and never as before it is being marked with so much passion and emotion throughout the world as countries continue their efforts to contain the pandemic. It is a good moment for the whole world to say THANK YOU!

  • The ruthlessness of the virus appeared more vivid last night with the news that British prime minister Boris Johnson, who contracted the virus, had spent the night in the ITU section of a London hospital. Covid-19 knows no borders, and respects no status.
  • More than 10,000 people have now died of covid-19 in the United States. Worldwide the number of deaths this morning stood at 75,760 with Italy and Spain still topping the list of countries with the largest numbers of fatalities
  • The UN Security Council will hold its first meeting on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, after weeks of divisions among its five permanent members, diplomats said Monday.




It is 1600 Central European Summer Time; 1800 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai. We are now pausing this live blog for today.

With more than 70,000 fatalities world wide, today we paid tribute to the work of the medical staff world wide, including to the hundreds fallen to the virus. We also looked at various economic developments as the pandemic starts taking its toll on the world economy..

We will resume our blog tomorrow Tuesday (7 April ) at 12 midday CEST (1400 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Till then from our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi, a very good evening.

Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!


1550 CEST (1750 Tbilisi/Dubai)


Before we bring this blog top a pause for today, we want to remind you of today's public service announcement, prepared for us by William Murray. Today he looks at the adviceon the World Health Organisation's COVID-19 twitter campaign on how to stay #healthyathome.

1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We started our blog nearly four hours ago with a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics who are on the frontline in the war against covid-19.  Hundreds have died in the course of their duty.

  In Italy, more than 100 medical staff have died from coronavirus and many others struggle with the trauma of seeing their collegues die.

Traumatised hospital staff have asked 'who will be the next' after 80 doctors and 21 nurses died from the bug.

Two nurses took their own lives since the outbreak, which has killed more than 15,800 and infected 124,600 in Italy, began.

A total of 300 medics were infected in one hospital in Lombardy - the area worst affected by the bug - while 12,000 hospital staff have been diagnosed nation-wide.

We again pay tribute to those working in the medical professions for their hard work and dedication.



1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 United States

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the first known case of a human infecting an animal and making it sick, the zoo's chief veterinarian said on Sunday.

Nadia, the 4-year-old Malayan tiger that tested positive, was screened for the COVID-19 disease after developing a dry cough along with three other tigers and three lions, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, said in a statement. All of the cats are expected to recover, it said.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals have tested positive in Hong Kong.

But officials believe this is a unique case because Nadia became sick after exposure to an asymptomatic zoo employee, Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told Reuters. Calle said they did not know which employee infected the tiger.

"This is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick," Calle said, adding that they planned to share the findings with other zoos and institutions. "Hopefully we will all have a better understanding as a result."

While the other tigers and lions were also exhibiting symptoms, the zoo decided to test only Nadia because she was the sickest and had started to lose her appetite, and they did not want to subject all the cats to anesthesia, Calle said.



1520 CEST (1720 Tbilisi/Dubai)

This is a bit weird but it is not fake news.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have transposed the coronavirus' structure into musical form.

The tune was generated by artificial intelligence, and the university says it will help researchers to spot details that they might miss under the microscope.

Professor Markus Buehler said he and his team have already used it to analyse the "vibrational structure" of coronavirus' spike proteins - the appendage that makes it especially contagious.

"Understanding these vibrational patterns is critical for drug design and much more," said Professor Buehler.

Listen to it here



1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The covid-19 crisis has had a different impact on different parts of society. This call by women activists calls for a feminist response to covid-19.


1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Armenia will tomorrow feature the first in a two part analysis of how Armenia has coped with Covid-19 pandemic so far and the outlook for the impact of the crisis on the Armenian economy. The analysis has been prepared for by our regular columnist Benyamin Poghosyan, Chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan.


1445 CEST (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have some updates from across the Caucasus Region

Armenia: the number of cases has now increased to 833 with 8 reported deaths

Azerbaijan: the number of cases increased to 641 and there are 7 deaths reported

Georgia: the number of cases has increased to 188 and there are 2 deaths reported.


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Among the many pieces of sad news that we have to report about as we cover this pandemic, there are now also some glimmers of hope. Italy, Spain and France are reporting fewer cases and fewer deaths, although the numbers remain high enough. Austria, which has had a tough approach to the virus and kept the number of deaths reasonably low, may now be the first EU country to start relaxing some of the lockdown measures. An update from the Netherlands from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the research team.

 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Monday morning (6 April) that Austria may relax some measures taken in the fight against the coronavirus after Easter weekend. The decision is not yet final, and will only apply if everyone sticks to the current measures. The decision would make Austria the first EU country to announce possible curtailment of coronavirus measures.

Kurz hopes that smaller shops with an area of up to four hundred metres, DIY stores, and garden centres will be able to reopen in the country next Tuesday (13 March). The conditions are that all visitors must wear mouth caps and a maximum of one customer per twenty square meters. Now only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies are open in the country.


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And to follow on the economic side of the story we were discussing earlier today in this blog, this data from China gives a snapshot of the sort of disruption this pandemic is causing. It was published on the Hong Kong Daily, South China Morning Post, which has proved to be one of the most reliable sources of information on pandemic developments in China over the last four months.

More than 460,000 Chinese firms closed permanently in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic pummeled the world's second largest economy, with more than half of them having operated for under three years, corporate registration data shows.

The closures comprised of businesses whose operating licenses had been revoked, as well as those who had terminated operations themselves, and included 26,000 in the export sector, according to Tianyancha, a commercial database that compiles public records.
At the same time, the pace of new firms being established slowed significantly. From January to March, around 3.2 million businesses were set up, a 29 per cent drop from a year earlier.

Most of these new companies were in traditional centres of economic power, such as Guangdong province in southern China, and close to half of them were in distribution or retail.The number of business closures underlines the challenges facing China as it tries to revive its economy, which is at risk of a contraction in the first quarter for the first time since 1976.
"China has managed to get the Covid-19 outbreak largely under control and domestic supply disruptions have now mostly dissipated," Yao Wei and Michelle Lam, economists from French bank Societe Generale, said in a recent note.

"However, there are signs of lasting damage to domestic demand, and on top of that the external shock resulting from widespread lockdowns in other major economies is arriving fast and furious."


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At these times, when so many people are at home in self isolation we are all looking for new things to read. The progressive British intellectual magazine Prospect, which is usually by paid subscription, has opened its website for free use until 20th April, so you may want to check it out. Read Prospect here


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More on the same theme from Noman, this time about the Coptic Church in Egypt.

  Egypt's Coptic church suspends prayers preceding Easter celebrations later this month to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The church last month suspended all services nationwide. These measures will continue until further notice.

Holy Week prayers precede Easter Sunday, which will be celebrated on April 19 by the Orthodox community, one week after the Catholic Easter. However, it is not confirmed if Pope Tawadros II, who heads the Coptic church, would go ahead with a pared-down midnight mass ahead of Easter.

Church spokesman Boulos Halim said these were "unprecedented and historic" measures. Coptic Christians are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East and account for 10-15 percent of Egypt's predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million.

Egypt so far has recorded 78 deaths out of 1,173 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The country enforced a partial lockdown with fines reaching USD 250 for violators.


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On this blog we have been giving attention to how the world great religions have been dealing with the pandemic. Religious leaders have had to grapple with difficult decisions, blancing faith, tradition and the health and safety of their flocks. This debate is on-going in all faiths, and we will keep monitoring it since we think this is of importance beyond the present crisis.

Noman Ahmed has been looking at the Hajj - the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, performed by Muslims as one of the pillars of Islam

 In Saudi Arabia, questions about the Hajj this year are still unanswered. The event which draws millions is scheduled to begin in late July. The Minister of Hajj and Umrah asked all Muslim to wait before making plans.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has taken heavy measures to control the virus, yet more than 480 active cases are reported in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina so far. A decision to suspend the Hajj may be inevitable.

This will not be the first time. The annual pilgrimage was cancelled around 40 times with the first being in 930 AD when the Qarmatians, a syncretic branch of Sevener Ismaili Shiite Islam revolted against the Abbasid Caliphate and attacked pilgrims. Since then, Hajj has not been held for 10 years. Political unrest and sectarian tensions have since disrupted Hajj multiple times. The last disruption was during Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaign from 1798 to 1801 when major routes were deemed unsafe. For a full time of Hajj disruptions, see here:

Today, the Coronavirus pandemic threatens Hajj again after 200 years. Several scholars and academics say that a decision to halt the Hajj will be wise and in full compliance with the Islamic Shariah. The Prophet Muhammad warned his companions not to enter any land that was infected with a plague. Hajj is not a limited ritual and can be carried out anytime.




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  An update now from the UK, where last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised. He had earlier been diagnosed with the covid-19 virus, but was thought not to have fully recovered. The news came as a bit of a shock, despite the fact that UK government sources continue to maintain he is still in charge of the government.

In the meantime, also last night Queen Elizabeth made a historic message to the nation. In more than sixty eight years as a monarch the Queen has only made these messages four times. The Queen thanked all those doing their bit in the war against the virus, and reminded the British people of the resilience of their forefathers in the second world war. "We will meet again" the Queen said, echoing the Vera Lynn song of the time.

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To continue on the economic theme, Noman Ahmed has been looking at the oil markets

Oil Prices

Oil prices dropped on Monday after negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut output were delayed. Brent crude slipped close to $30 a barrel in early trade and was at $32.82 by 02:30 GMT (03.30 CEST). It dropped by $1.29, or 3.8 percent. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $1.66, or 5.9 percent, to $26.68 a barrel, after earlier touching a low of $25.28. The United Kingdom's pound sterling fell by 0.4 percent after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital following persistent coronavirus symptoms.


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We have some updates on the economic dimension of the coronavirus crisis from our research team

First from Maximiliaan van Lange 


Within the EU there is a discussion between the national leaders about the way to solve the economic crisis due to the corona outbreak in Europe.

Countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France plea for the introduction of so-called ‘Eurobonds'. Eurobonds can be seen as an instrument through which the euro countries of the EU guarantee the debts of each other. Countries like The Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Austria dislike this system. They think that member states should decide about their own budget. and questions regarding debts or savings and how to spend money. They blame the southern states of Europe of not being careful enough with their budgets and of accumulating significant debts.

The southern states, especially Italy, reproach the more prosperous northern countries and accuse them of a lack of solidarity. Their fury is directed especially towards the Dutch minister of finance, Wopke Hoekstra. Hoekstra had said that Italy and Spain had shown a lack of budget control over the last years. The Eurogroup (the member states that use the Euro) will discuss this issue, which many consider now constitutes a threat to EU unity

Meanwhile, all member states can still borrow money on the financial markets. The European Central Bank (ECB) has 750 billion euros available for the countries with financial problems.

 The British Car Industry

Based on new expectations from the industry association, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the British automotive industry will sell 23 per cent fewer cars as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, nearly 45 per cent fewer cars were sold in the United Kingdom than in the same month in 2019. Sales fell faster than during the economic crisis in 2009.

Car dealers in Europe and North America are largely closed, and the production chain is also at a standstill. SMMT director Mike Hawes says however that no long-term conclusions should be drawn from these figures. SMMT points, among other things, to China, where "the first signs of recovery" are visible. In China, sales fell by 31 per cent in the first three months of 2020.



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We are touched by expressions of global solidarity that has been taking many forms.

In Azerbaijan the Heidar Aliyev Centre was lit in the French colours last week in solidarity with france, which is one of the countries m,ost badly hit by the covid-19 pandemic



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The total number of deaths from coronavirus now exceed 70,000


Welcome to this live blog on

It is 12.00 midday Central European Summer Time (CEST) and 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai on Monday, 6 April 2020

Tomorrow is World Health Day and there has never been a time as important as this to mark this day. Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics are engaged in a global effort to halt the spread of the covid-19 virus. Many have already died in the course of doing so.


We salute their memories and their heroism.



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We are now pausing this blog for today.

Across the world humanity continues to show resilience in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that numbers of those infected or killed by the virus continue to increase. Religious leaders of all denominations search for ways in which they can reconcile their traditions with the present reality. In the meantime the debate about what could have been done better starts in earnest. And on the economic and political fronts, this story is just starting.

We will be back tomorrow (Monday) at 12 midday Central European Summer Time (1400 hours in Tbilisi and in Dubai) with more news, reports and comments.

For now good night from our team in The Hague and in The Netherlands. Be safe, be healthy! be happy!


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As our public service announcement for today we have this message from the European Union about saying at home, and reading a book (or maybe two)




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