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Live Blog - 15 April 2020
15 April 2020

Our live blog on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world is on every day from 1200-1600 Central European Summer Time (equivalent to 1400-1800 in Tbilisi and Dubai).

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 editor@commonspace.eu

This live blog has been running daily since 19 March. You can read earlier blogs here

 15 April 2020   

1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today.

Billions of people have been told that the lockdown they are under will continue for some weeks to come. But already governments are starting to prepare their exit strategies. Back to normal will not be an option, which is why there is increasing talk of the new world we will emerge to.

We will be back to consider these issues tomorrow Wednesday, 16 April 2020 at 12 noon CEST (1400 in Tbilisi and Dubai)

Till then, from our team in The Hague in the Netherlands, and in Tbilisi, Georgia, a good evening.

Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!

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1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

The WHO controversy

The decision by US president Donald Trump to suspend payments to the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been received with incredulity in many world capitals.

Throughout the day EU institutions and member states, as well as the UK, have distanced themselves from the move and indicated that they have no intention of stopping funding to the organisation. This controversy is part of a much much bigger conversation about coronavirus, and who is to blame for it. This will be with us for many years to come.

WHO itself appears to be keeping calm and carrying on. 

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1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic crisis fake news has had a field day, causing confusion and distress to many.

One story that has been doing the rounds, and especially in the UK and in the Netherlands, is that coronavirus is caused by the masts of 5G communications networks. Several masts have been burnt in both countries - disturbing the communications at this sensitive time for all of us. Our colleague William Murray has been looking at the story. Read it on commonspcae.eu here

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1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An invitation 

Here at commonspace.eu we really like to spoil our readers.

Last Sunday we gave you the thumbs up for the live concert of Andrea Bocelli from the Duomo in Milan. Those who saw it could not have but been moved by the performance. The voice and the setting were simply awesome.

Today we have another invitation. 

Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma will hold a LIVE performance in Abu Dhabi. The performance will be held in Bait Al-Oud music, a music school Shamma founded around 10 years ago.

The oud player's concert will stream on Abu Dhabi Culture's YouTube channel at 1800 CEST (2000 Tbilisi/Dubai) and you can watch it here

Other Bait Al-Oud musicians will join Shamma for the concert following the footsteps of the Dubai Opera, which also began live-streaming concerts this month.

As self-isolation becomes important in the fight against the coronavirus, performing artists are using their platforms to inspire and entertain. 

 

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1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  UAE

The Arab Fashion Council is partnering up with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to launch #thread4cause, an initiative calling Arab designers to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.            

The initiative encourages the fashion community to get involved in preventing the spread of the virus. Fashion designers have responded positively and said they would do the best they could produce medical gowns and surgical masks.


1445 CEST (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  France

For fans of the Tour de France we have an update from our colleague Maximiliaan van Lange:

The international cycling union UCI took a final decision on Wednesday (15 April) about the holding of the Tour de France. The Tour de France will start this season on 29 August in the French city of Nice. It will run from 29 August until 20 September, two months after the original start date of 27 June. The itinerary remains unchanged.

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1400 CEST (1600 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Iraq

Countries that have conflicts within them are suffering more in the present pandemic. Noman Ahmed from our research team brings us this story from Iraq.

In Iraq, suspicion of the government and traditional beliefs stigmatize the fight against the novel coronavirus. 

A doctor asked his companions, with hazmat suits, to stand back so house occupants would not see them immediately when they visit a suspected case.

"This is very sensitive, very difficult for our society," said Dr. Wissam Cona, from Najaf in southern Iraq. When he was visiting a house, the father of the family said: "'Please don't park in front of our house. I feel ashamed in front of the neighbours. This is so difficult for my reputation.'"

The stigma thus remains a big obstacle for public health officials fighting the coronavirus. People avoid being tested and proven their family members from doing so and delay help until they are severely ill.  Several doctors say that this could be a reason why the registered cases remain so low.  This stigma reflects cultural and religious beliefs. But it also entails a distrust of the government. In a historically weak system, people fear that hospitals might kill them.  

"Some believe the virus means that God is displeased with them, or maybe it is a punishment for a sin, so they don't want others to see that they are sick," said Dr. Emad Abdul Razzak, a consultant psychiatrist at Iraq's Health Ministry.

"For many people it is a shame for a female to say she has this illness or any illness, even cancer or mental illness, and many people have no trust in the health system," he said.

In contrast to many Western countries, only one instance where a public figure admitted being infected.  

Sherine Hamdy, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California at Irvine says that people want to die within their families and not in hospitals because of family bonds and ties. Many all fear that female members may be sexually compromised if they leave the family. 

"In this society, it is not OK for a female to be apart from the family," said Dr. Mona al-Khafaji, a radiologist in private practice in Baghdad.

"The coronavirus and pandemics overall cause disruptions of social and religious practices, and it's not easy to tell people that the coronavirus is stronger than God," said Omar Dewachi, a professor of medical anthropology at Rutgers University, who was born and brought up in Iraq.

She mentioned the case of a 32-year-old female patient with fibrosis, which heightens her vulnerability to the coronavirus, who was having trouble breathing. Dr. al-Khafaji recommended the woman go for a Covid-19 test, but her father and brothers said no, and refused to budge even when her condition worsened.

The government has asked military forces to accompany doctors but that added to fear considering Iraq's violent history. 

Egypt and Afghanistan have also suffered from such issues.

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1310 CEST (1510 Tbilis/Dubai)

  European Union

Many people have rightly been asking, what comes next. The European Commission today made the first effort to answer the question. Read more here

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: "Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods. Even though conditions in the Member States still vary widely, all Europeans rightly ask themselves when and in what order the confinement measures can be lifted. Responsible planning on the ground, wisely balancing the interests of protection of public health with those of the functioning of our societies, needs a solid foundation. That's why the Commission has drawn up a catalogue of guidelines, criteria and measures that provide a basis for thoughtful action. The strength of Europe lies in its social and economic balance. Together we learn from each other and help our European Union out of this crisis."

Read more here

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1240 CEST (1440 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We now have some updates from across the Caucasus Region

  Armenia

The number of covid-19 cases registered in Armenia is now 1,111 and the number of deaths has reached 17.

The coronavirus pandemic in Armenia is playing out in the context of a tense and complicated political situation that, given the fact that there is at the moment a state of emergency, bubbles under the surface. On Monday, Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians, added his voice to those calling for the release from jail of Armenia's second president, Robert Kocharian. The patriarch based his call on humanitarian grounds, citing health risks for Kocharian if he remains in jail.

  Georgia

The number of covid 19 cases in Georgia is now 306, and there are three deaths.

The Georgian government has insisted that it will not force Churchs to close down over the coming Orthodox Easter period, but it expects people to abide by rules and not to attend services during the Easter week.

Health authorities in Georgia said the country entered the full domestic spread period and accordingly the government extended the state of emergency until May 10.

This morning the government announced that as from this evening the four main cities in the country - Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi - will be locked for 10 days. Entering and leaving these cities will be banned. This measure is being put in place because tens of thousands of Georgians normally travel back to family villages at this time of the year to celebrate Easter and to visit the graves of ancestors.

Georgians have been struggling to keep a sense of balance in what is a very surreal sitation.Take for example this story. In the district of Kakheti in Eastern Georgia a man selling tulips near a church, was fined 3,000 GEL for breaking the curfew regulations. According to him, he needed money for medicine and managed to sell a total of 9 flowers, for which he took 6 GEL in total, before he was stopped and fined.

There was an outpour of sympathy from the local people in Telavi, and in a short time they collected 5000 GEL to support the 73 years old Misha Karaulashvili (picture)

 

  Azerbaijan 

In Azerbaijan  the number of coronavirus cases, as of yesterday, was 1197 and there were 13 deaths.

Azerbaijan has been enforcing tough measures to ensure social distancing. It was announced on Tuesday that 4 catering establishments had been fined for operating during the lockdown.

A total of 7,314 people were fined and 26 people were arrested for violating current rules. The government called for "a minimum of contact with individuals, a 2-meter distance during communication and strict adherence to all requirements and decisions of the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers".

Nagorno Karabakh

Presidential elections were held in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabaklh Republic on Monday, despite the fact that the territory was under a state of emergency because of the pandemic. Arayik Harutyunyan, the leader of the Free Armenia party received 87% of the votes.

 

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1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)

One region where this live blog has been looking at over the last month is Central Asia. Noman Ahmed from our research team has some updates.

  Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan's president has asked the people to grow grains and raise poultry to be self-sufficient amidst an uncertain crisis.

"This is the only way to partially compensate for losses in other sectors of the economy and to protect employment and incomes," he said at the April 10 meeting.

Mirziyoyev said he wanted to see a 10 percent increase in cotton crops and 20 percent more grain.

"Now, it is the earth and the earth alone that can feed us. All countries have suspended trade. For this reason, we talk about food production, everywhere needs grain, and poultry farming, and cattle breeding, and fishing,"

The world bank has already expected a decline in the Uzbekistan growth rate.

The current cases of #COVID19 stand at 1,214 with 4 deaths and 99 recoveries.

  Tajikistan

A series of deaths have raised suspicions about the government's measures and the denials of infections in the country. Skeptics cite four cases, some of which are in the Northern regions, which have no testing facilities. Authorities have denied that the case is linked to the coronavirus. The denials are not reassuring the public as much as needed.

"I have underlying conditions. I have problems with my heart, so I am afraid of getting infected with this virus," said one resident in Dushanbe.

A Tajik political analyst said that the government will emulate China and hide the cases until it becomes a mass phenomenon.

"Until the virus becomes a mass phenomenon, the authorities will hide the fact. But if it does become a mass phenomenon, people in this country are going to be in trouble because we have a limited number of ventilators," 

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1210 CEST (1410 Tbilisi Dubai)

We are starting today with a look at some European countries. Some northern EU countries are seen as a model in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In many countries, strict measures remain in place for the time being. However, relaxations are being announced in some. Maximiliaan van Lange, from our research team has been looking at the latest from across the region:

  Finland

In Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin today (15 April) relaxed the lockdown measures by lifting travel restrictions to and from the Uusimaa region which includes the capital Helsinki. As of today, the district will reopen. Three weeks ago, the government had shut mainly down public life. The area is home to almost a third of the Finnish population.

Because the area had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, the government decided to close Marin Uusimaa to the rest of the country on 28 March. In Finland, 64 patients have died so far from the effects of the coronavirus. There are 3.161 confirmed infections.

 Denmark

In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced last week that essential measures would be relaxed. The spread of the COVID-19 virus seems to be under control, and the government wants to get the economy back on track. As a result, schools and kindergartens in Denmark will reopen today (15 April). After weeks of school closures, this is the first lockdown measure to relax the EU country.

The first lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus were taken in Denmark on 11 March. Denmark closed land borders and schools, and large gatherings were banned.

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Good day and welcome to this live blog on commonspace.eu

It is 12 noon Central European Summer Time, equivalent to 14.00 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai on Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Many people across the world have this week entered a second month of lockdown. The lives of billions of people have been disrupted, as have the economic activity of most countries. The coronavirus pandemic has now infected more than 2 million people.

But the human spirit has not been defeated and is fighting back. This can be seen not only in the actions of government, but especially in the actions of individuals and communities right across the world. We are constantly hearing stories that are both uplifting and inspiring. Whilst the battle against coronavirus has not been won yet, the fight is on, and billions of people are contributing even if by simply staying at home. That means that victory is within reach.

This live blog is also entering its second month, and we will now change the accent of our daily contribution to focus more on the fight against coronavirus – both the medical pandemic, and the economic, social and political consequences of it. That is why from today we are changing the name of the blog to “Defeating Coronavirus”.

Our cover picture today is also suitably positive. It is a scene from the centre of The Hague, one of many European cities under lockdown, and the picture was taken by our colleague Maximiliaan van Lange two days ago. The beauty of nature and the historical setting remind us that there are things to live for, and makes us more resolute to be strong whilst we deal with the present crisis. 

Our team based in The Hague and in Tbilisi remains committed to continue providing information and analysis, give a public service, and fight fake news as we continue our fight against coronavirus.

 

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