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 email@example.com
Thursday, 9 April 2020
1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We are now pausing this live blog for today. There are now more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus world wide, and the number of deaths has reached 90,000. Throughout the world efforts continue to contain the crisis, but leaders have been warning that restrictions are likely to continue well into May, and maybe even as long as the summer. The EU has stepped up its assistance to neighbouring countries, including Georgia and Armenia. In the Middle East countries are brazing themselves for economic and political repercussions from the pandemic, whilst in New York Governor Cuomo has ordered flags at half mast in memory of the thousands who died already in the city and state.
We will be back again with this live blog tomorrow Friday, 10 April at 12 noon Central European Summer Time (1400 hours in Tbilisi and 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)
We mentioned at the start of today's blog that 9 April marks the 31 anniversary of the tragic events of 1989 when Soviet troops killed peaceful protestors on Tbilisi's Rustavelli Avenue. Georgian prime minister Giorgi Gakharia paid a lone tribute to the victims in a ceremony held under the coronavirus restrictions.
1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)
Busting Fake News: Know your facts!
Fake news have circulated in abundance in the course of this pandemic, creating unhappiness and problems for many people. We are committeed to combatting fake news as much as we can. William Murray unwraps some of the false advice that is going around in this public service update for commonspace.eu. Read it here
1535 CEST (1735 Tbilisi/Dubai)
In the Netherlands. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that there is zero chance that the country will return to a normal situation during the summer months. Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of the Commonspace.eu research team, has been watching the prime minister's press conference, held on Thursday afternoon (9 April) after a meeting of the Council of Ministers
It will be a long time before normal life can be resumed. Rutte said this in response to the question of whether the measures will continue into the summer and whether people can book a summer holiday. According to Rutte, the probability of a return to the situation existing before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short term is "almost zero".
The Netherlands has reported 2396 deaths from covid-19 so far.
1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We now have a short report from the South Caucasus summarising the situation today
In both Armenia and Azerbaijan the number of reported covid-19 cases now exceeds 900 - it is 926 in Azerbaijan and 921 in Armenia. The number of cases in Georgia is 214. 10 people have died in Armenia, 9 in Azerbaijan and 3 in Georgia.
1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)
There is a lot of interest among the chattering classes as to how populations in the Middle East are reacting to Coronavirus. Noman Ahmed has been looking at som,e data from Premise, an American based data analysis and collection company is gathering insight about different COVID-19 responses since mid-March. You can read his short report here
1430 CEST (1630 Tbilisi / Dubai)
Iran: #COVID19 death toll passes 4000. Total cases reached 66,220.
The Supreme Leader suggested today that mass gatherings during the holy month of Ramadan may be stopped due to the pandemic.
"In the absence of public gatherings in the Ramadan month including praying, speeches and so on, that we are this year are deprived of them, we should create the same senses in our lonesomeness," Khamenei said.
Iran is eager to restart its economy, but signs of normal life are still absent in the public.
1350 CEST (1550 Tbilisi/Dubai)
The Netherlands has been quite hard-hit by the coronavirus, with more than 2000 fatalities so far. Maximiliaan van Lange has been klooking at some of the effects of the crisis on the country:
In the Netherlands, companies are making cars available throughout the country for medical workers who usually use public transport to go to work, an exemplary initiative for the other EU Member States. Not only is it more difficult for medical workers to get to work because public transport has been reduced, but it also increases the risk of infection. There are now 630 cars available in the Netherlands. The cars are on loan free of charge for three months. Petrol and parking are also free of charge in many cases.
On a less happy note,
In the Netherlands, cultural institutions such as theatres, music venues and museums are facing 'challenging times', according to Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven. Therefore, the call to visitors to keep their already purchased and not to ask for a refund. In addition to concert halls, theatres and museums, organisers of festivals, sports competitions and other events also subscribe to the viewpoint. If people were to demand their money back en masse, this would have disastrous consequences for the sector.
For instance, theatre companies are concerned about the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. Large theatre groups already fear bankruptcy. Theatres have had to cancel hundreds of performances due to the government's 'intelligent lockdown' measures
1330 CEST (1530 Tbilisi/Dubai)
Saudi Arabia/ Yemen
This is very good news
Saudi Arabia announced that the kingdom and its allies would observe a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen. If it sticks, the cease-fire would be the first nationwide truce in five years of war in Yemen. https://t.co/KZ7xpVsqDD— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 9, 2020
1320 CEST (1520 Tbilisi/Dubai
....and here is some information on the EU support package for Armenia to help it in its fight against the coronavirus
The EU will provide overall €92million to Armenia to support immediate and short-term needs.
The funds will be directed towards supplying medical devices and equipment, training for medical and laboratory staff, support to SMEs and business community, as well as social and humanitarian assistance to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The EU's response follows a Team Europe approach. It draws contributions from all EU institutions and combines the resources mobilised by EU Member States and financial institutions, in particular the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Working together, Team Europe can muster a critical mass that few others can match.
1310 CEST (1510 Tbilisi/Dubai)
The European Union has announced a number of measures in support of neighbouring countries affected by coronavirus
Here is some information about the EU package for Georgia
Yesterday the EU announced its global response to support partner countries' efforts in tackling the coronavirus epidemic by committing to redirect over €15 billion of existing resources. This includes over €183 million for Georgia.
"While Europe is in the midst of its own struggle to overcome the harsh consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, it continues to stand by its partners. I am proud to announce that the European Union will redirect and accelerate over €180million of existing funding to give maximum support to Georgia for its covid-19 response. These funds will support economic and social recovery, and will be provided at local level, and also strengthen state finances to help Georgia successfully get through this difficult economic period. All this funding comes as non-reimbursable grants, not as loans, and it comes on top of the support package the EU announced last week, bringing total EU support to Georgia to over €250 mln" noted Carl Hartzell, EU Ambassador to Georgia.
The support announced yesterday complements the first EU support package for Georgia announced on 30 March.
All support is provided in the framework of a Team Europe response, which includes resources from the EU, its Member States, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
1245 CEST (1445 Tbilisi/Dubai)
In Georgia, 9 April is a significant historical day marking the anniversary of the use of heavy force by the Soviet military to crush peaceful protests in the centre of Tbilisi in 1989. This year the occasion could not be marked in the usual way, with a ceremony in front of the Parliament building on Rustavelli Avenue, where the massacre of young Georgians took place 31 years ago.
But prime minister Giorgi Gakharia made a special message to the nation in which he emphasised the importance of the event for the Georgian people See it here
One of the leaders of the Georgian opposition, former presidential candidate David Bakradze also spoke on the occasion emphasising the need for national unity. Bakadze said
"Today is, first of all, a day of national pain. We must honor every person whose blood was shed here on April 9, 1989. But today is also a day of national pride because this April 9th led us to the 2nd of April , when Georgia's freedom and independence were restored. The lesson here is that in times of need Georgians must be able to stand together, we must be able to fight together, and when Georgians stand together, we will surely be successful and achieve the goal we are fighting for. Today is a day of pain, but today is also a day of pride and understanding of the importance of our unity, "said David Bakradze.
1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)
Minister of Health Jens Spahn reports today (9 April) that after 19 April Germany will be able to "gradually" return to normal life as a citizen and continue to adhere to social distance measures. However, the death toll in Germany rises above two thousand. Maximiliaan of Lange, a member of the Commonspace.eu research team, has this update.
The Robert Koch-Institut (RKI) reports that 246 people have died in Germany in the last 24 hours as a result of the COVID-19 virus. This brings the official death toll as a result of the virus to 2,107. To date, the new virus has been identified in 108,202 Germans. Comparing the figures internationally is difficult because the testing policy differs.
Last Wednesday (10 April) Germany passed the 100,000 infection mark. All federal states report infections, but most infections per capita were detected in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hamburg. In the meantime, almost 50,000 Germans recovered from the disease.
1205 CEST (1405 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We start today by looking at the situation in North Africa. Noman Ahmed from our resarchteam has some updates:
North Africa is the most affected part with COVID-19 in the continent with more than half of Africa's number of reported cases and deaths recorded from this region.
Approximately 299 deaths (68 percent) of all deaths in Africa were reported in six countries of the region.
Algeria is the most affected in North Africa. However, it has not been able to conduct a significant number of screenings and tests. Only one laboratory, the Institut Pasteur Algeria (IPA), is testing samples from across the country. A curfew was also declared on March 23 from 7 am to 7 pm.
Morocco announced that it has started to draw on a $3-billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offset an economic contraction. The Moroccan central bank said the credit line would help "soften the impact of the (coronavirus) crisis on our economy and maintain our exchange reserves at an adequate level."
The credit would be used "mainly to finance the balance of payments and will not impact public debt, in a first for our transactions with the IMF,"
Morocco has imposed a lockdown to combat the coronavirus, which has claimed 91 lives in the North African country from a declared total of more than 1,200 cases of COVID-19.
It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time and 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and in Dubai on Thursday, 9 April 2020
The city of New York is fast becoming the epicentre of the coronavirus crisis
As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been more than 149,401 confirmed cases of the coronavirus discovered in New York Stae, including more than 76,876 in New York City. At least 6,268 people with COVID-19 have died in the state, which has the largest number - around 35 percent - of confirmed cases in the U.S.
Nationwide, more than 435,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. At least 14,795 people have died from the virus in the country, where 10 states have confirmed more than 10,000 cases. COVID-19 has killed more than 88,502 worldwide.
The cover page of our live blog for today shows flags flown at half-mast on the Governor's mansion in New York. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday he would be directing flags to be flown at half-staff in honour of the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo reported that 6,268 New Yorkers have died due to the coronavirus outbreak. "Just to put perspective on this, 9/11, which so many of us lived through in this state and in this nation, 2,753 lives were lost," Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
Our thoughts are with the people of New York in this moment of suffering.
Editorial Note issued on 18 March 2020:
Commonspace.eu in the age of corona - A message from the editorial team in response to the global pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus
Dear readers and subscribers,
Since it was established in 2011, commonspace.eu 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, commonspace.eu 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.
Commonspace.eu 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 commonspace.eu
18 March 2020
Georgia's Inter-ethnic relations under pressure as fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis rages