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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This live blog has been running daily since 19 March. You can read earlier blogs here
Thursday, 16 April 2020
1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We are now pausing this blog for today. We will be back with this live blog tomorrow at 12 noon CEST (1400 Tbilisi/Dubai)
In the meantime our team in The Hague and in Tbilisi wish you all a good evening
Be Safe! Be Healthy Be Happy!
1550 CEST (1750 Tbilisi/Dubai)
PODCASTS to kill your boredom
For our wellness moment for today, William Murray considers the value of the podcast, and for those who have exhausted their choice of NETFLIX programmes, there is an entire new world of podcasts out there to discover. And unlike Netflix, most of them are free. Read it here
1540 CEST (1740 Tbilisi/Dubai)
Remembering Lord Gordon of Strathblane, who died of coronavirus in Scotland earlier this month
Lord Gordon of Strathblane speaking in Yerevan in 2004
In this live blog over the last month we have often mentioned the numbers of the thousands of people who died of covid 19. The global figure is now close to 140,000. But today we want to mention one person by name - Lord Gordon of Strathblane who died earlier this month in Scotland from covid-19.
Commonspace.eu Managing Editor, Dennis Sammut paid this tribute:
Lord Gordon of Strathblane, known to one and all as Jimmy, was a fiery Scotsman who in the 1970s changed the face of broadcasting in Britain with his leadership of Radio Clyde which set the tone for commercial radio in other parts of the UK by its high quality programmes and balance between entertainement and information.
He was elevated to the peerage as a Member of the House of Lords in 1997 and he took his work of the second chamber of parliament very seriously, whilst at the same time enjoying every moment of it there. It was soon after that that I met him - both of us were helping in the work of the John Smith Memorial Trust. In 2004 I invited him on behalf of LINKS to visit the South Caucasus and see some of the work we were doing there. We travelled to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and he met politicians, government officials and many people from civil society. That visit remained with him for the rest of his life. Whenever I saw him afterwards he asked me how things were going there and was genuinely keen to see relations between the UK, the EU and the region develop.
Jimmy Gordon was one of those people who inspired those working with him. He will be greatly missed by his wife, children, family and friends. Covid-19 took another good man, but Jimmy Gordon would have wanted everyone to carry on despite all the difficulties. We honour his memory, as well as those of the tens of thousands of others who have succumbed to this virus.
1505 CEST (1705 Tbilisi/Dubai)
On this blog we often remind of the suffering of people who are either refugees or displaced or who live in conflict regions, in this time of world crisis and global pandemic. Our colleague Maximiliaan van Lange has been looking at the situation in Greece.
The Ministry of Migration is expected to give the green light to local authorities to move 2,380 elderly and sick refugees from overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands to the mainland from Sunday (19 April), for fear of a large-scale Covid-19 outbreak in the refugee camps
The measure affects two hundred refugees over the age of sixty and their family members. The remaining group consists of refugees with medical problems. The refugees are moved from the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, and Kos to hotels, apartments, or camps on the mainland.
For some time now, aid organizations have been calling for the evacuation of the overcrowded refugee camps. Tens of thousands of migrants currently live in Greece, many of whom live in refugee camps on various islands.
1455 CEST (1655 Tbilisi/Dubai)
A few updates now from Central Asia prepared by our colleague Noman Ahmed
In Kazakhstan, 2.7 million people received income compensations from the state. Others are due to receive theirs. This support constitutes the biggest strand of economic support provided by the government. The government has received applications of support from 5.3 million people, roughly more than half of the Kazakh total Labor force. Exports were the hardest hit sector, but the government remains confident that Kazakhstan can overcome the crisis.
The Kyrgyz parliament havs amended the laws to protect medical professionals. These laws address to the rights of the workers in emergencies and emergency situations.
The new laws will oblige authorities to provide transportation, and protective equipment. The laws will also provide compensation working in high risk sectors.
The doctors will also have the right for paid leave for 6 months after the elimination of the crisis.
Kyrgyzstan has 466 cases of #COVID19, among which 104 are medical workers.
1440 CEST (1640 Tbilisi/Dubai)
The EU is calling in the army!
A dedicated EU military task force will be set up to support the coordination of the national armed forces in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.https://t.co/heZDLspjuN— EURACTIV (@EURACTIV) April 16, 2020
1415 CEST (1615 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We started this morning with a focus on those who are working in research hubs all over the world to try to develop a vaccine against covid-19
But there is another side of this story. It seems some phamaceutical companies are proceeding with this in a way which looks at profit rather than well being.
In the Netherlands, institutional investors - pension funds, quasi governmental bodies, and charities, who hold investments in phamaceutical companies have issued a very stark warning.
An update of Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of our research team.
In the Netherlands, investment managers, pension funds, and insurers are jointly appealing to pharmaceutical companies for more cooperation. Pharmaceutical companies must now subordinate financial motives to the interest in the fight against Covid-19, they argue.
Institutional investors believe that pharmaceutical companies have enormous social responsibility. More than fifteen multinationals received a letter today (16 April) calling for more cooperation. Institutional investors have also said that they will also draw attention to the social interest at shareholders' meetings.
1300 CEST /1500 Tbilisi/Dubai)
We now look in a bit more detail about the situation in the Caucasus Region, compiled with the assistance of our team in Tbilisi
A huge controversy has erupted in Georgia after the leadership of the Orthodox Church announced late last night that it will carry on with services over the upcoming Orthodox Easter celebrations this weekend. The Church spokesperson indicated that they will circumvent the current curfew which runs from 21.00 to 0600 hours during the night by asking parishoners to remain in the Churches until the curfew ends. Some medical specialists think this will exacerbate the situation because it will keep people confined in one place for nine hours.
Statements by the spokesperson for the partriarchate, Father Andria Jaghmaidze, seen here in this screen grab from TV station Mtavari Arkhi have created considerable negative reaction in Georgian society.
There appears to be some controversy about this issue in the Church itself. Some Church leaders, including the Metropolitan Archbishops of Batumi, and of Poti, have distanced themselves from the position being taken by the Patriarchate.
Speaking on Rustavi 2 TV, the Head of the Georgian Centre for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze made a passionate appeal for people not to go to Church in these days
"Don't go to churches, don't go to churches, pray from home. Let us celebrate this resurrection in a different format, praying for our fathers, our priests, and we will be an inspiration for our country and God, that we will come out of this scene with less damage. It is very difficult for me to say this, I am making this kind of statement for the first time: Do not go to churches, do not gather, God will forgive us because more Georgians will survive. Please do that!"
Gamkrelidze in the last few weeks has become a household name in georgia, appearing on television everyday to update the country on the situation around covid-19. He and other medical professionals have been hailed for their efforts which has kept the numbers of covid 19 cases in Georgia low. This morning figures were 336 reported cases and 3 deaths.
The Central Bank reassured the country of its support amidst an anticipated economic recession. The Bank is willing to work with customers on a case-by-case basis to review the terms of their loans. The refinancing interest rates were reduced by 0.25 percent.
The customers can be given the opportunity to extend loans to help them with any issues of obtaining liquidity. The bank said it may expect fluctuations in the exchange rate due to the floated rate.
The government also announced that it would expand the scope of the third assistance package, which is targeted toward small and medium sized businesses.
The number of cases in Armenia has now reach 1159, and there have been 18 deaths
The last figures we have froim Azerbaijan are from yesterday because Azerbaijan normally releases its figures in the evening . They show the number of ases to be. 13 people have died. "Women are relatively prevalent in the country among those infected with the coronavirus". This was stated by Ramin Bayramli, Chairman of the Board of TABIB, the Azerbaijani health service agency
1255 CEST (1455 Tbilisi / Dubai)
A must read paper published this morning by the President of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, former EU Council president Herman van Rompuy.
President Emeritus of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy weighs up the long-term lessons we should take away from the ongoing corona crisis.
He looks at the impact of COVID-19, and the quarantine measures many governments have subsequently taken to stop its spread, on our economy and societies, on the fate of multilateralism, and the fight against inequality and global warming.
Honestly assessing the response of the European Union, EPC President Van Rompuy finds a hopeful development in the compromise the Eurogroup was able to find on 9 April but argues that it is just a first step.
He also warns of the ghosts of crises past. Old rivalries and national prejudices are rearing their heads again, and not only will it prevent the EU member states from finding a way out of the crisis but it could also be detrimental for the Union in the long run.
He concludes the paper with this thought:
"In the midst of the tragedy of tens of thousands of deaths, we must continue to hope that we will learn lessons to avoid repetition. Hope, however, is a verb. How to turn fear into hope? Politics is action."
read it here
1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)
Before we start looking detail at the situation in the Caucasus Region we would like to share this image of the Heidar Aliyev Centre in Baku decked in the colours of the European Union on Wednesday, in solidarity with the people of Europe suffering because of covid 19
1205 CEST (1405 Tbilisi Dubai
Today we are starting with some updates from across Europe and the Middle East compiledby our researchers Noman Ahmed and Maximiliaan van Lange
The confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 76,000 but there is a slowdown in the rate of infection. The death toll reached 4777.
A Chinese medical team has arrived in Saudi Arabia to help fight the coronavirus. Total infections are now at 5862 with 79 deaths and 931 recoveries.
Algeria received a second batch of donations from China, including face masks, test devices, and medical protective outfits. Total infections in Algeria reached 2160 and the death toll at 336.
The country is witnessing a fast climb with 4281 new cases yesterday bringing the total to 69,392, while the death toll stands at 1518. About 5674 patients have recovered since mid-March. The authorities also started releasing prisoners yesterday.
The total infections reached 12,501 with the death toll of 130 and 2563 recovered patients. Israel will also start producing its own test kits with the help of the Chinese giant BGI Genomics.
Emirates airline announced that it would conduct on-site #COVID19 tests for passengers who require health certification before flying. UAE Emirates and Etihad carriers announced the resumption of some flights to certain destinations. Check this earlier update here:
Working along with Dubai Health Authority, the airline administered the tests for passengers outbound for Tunisia yesterday.
Using rapid testing, results are out in 10-15 minutes. The airline has also modified their travel procedures to follow social distancing requirements. Masks are also required at all times onboard.
In an opinion piece in the Dutch quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad, European Commission Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, pleads not to return to "business as usual" after the Covid-19 pandemic, but to invest in a new sustainable economy. This means replacing "old, polluting infrastructure" with "modern, clean and efficient alternative in all sectors".
Timmermans says that with his ''Green Deal'' there are many more jobs to be created and our GDP can grow much more than in the old way.
In the past 24 hours, the Dutch government has given citizens a new update on the situation in the Netherlands. An overview of the main points:
- The Dutch government has not yet decided to shy away from the Covid-19 measures in the Netherlands. The press conference on this subject is scheduled for next Tuesday (21 April). According to Mark Rutte, a 1.5-meter society brings with it "major dilemmas" in terms of "distribution of scarce space".
- Yesterday (15 April) the Dutch government released extra money to support the agricultural and cultural sector. For the agricultural sector 650 million euro is available, for the culture sector 300 million euro is available,
- The Dutch government is not going to advise citizens on the use of mouth masks in public.
The Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès extended the Covid-19 measures until 3 May on Wednesday evening (15 April). A positive light has been announced in the press conference: garden centers and do-it-yourself shops may reopen. Furthermore, "to make the situation more bearable", residents of nursing homes may now be visited by a maximum of one person.
The National Crisis Centre in Belgium reports that in the last 24 hours, 417 people have died from Covid-19. 127 people died in hospitals, 289 patients in residential care centers. A total of 4,857 people died in Belgium from the virus.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel extended on Wednesday evening (15 April) most of the Covid-19 measures until 3 May. The hospitality sector will remain closed until this date, as well of churches, synagogues, and mosques. Chancellor Merkel orders the population to wear mouth masks. Furthermore, large public events are forbidden until the end of August. However, schools may reopen gradually from May 4 and small shops may reopen next week, details are not yet known.
Germany currently has 127,584 Covid-19 patients. In the country 3,254 people died from the virus.
For more news, Check our Twitter updates:
LINKS Europe https://twitter.com/LinksEurope
Good day and welcome to this live blog on commonspace.eu.
It is Thursday, 16 April 2020 - 12 noon Central European Summer Time, equivalent to 1400 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai.
With more than two million cases of covid-19 now reported world-wide, with half the population of the world under some kind of lock down, increasingly the question being asked is what is the "exit strategy".
Much has been said by politicians and scientists already about this, but underlying any complete exit strategy is the need to develop a vaccine that would prevent covid-19 from spreading by making people immune to it.
Around the world at the moment thousands of scientists are working in more than seventy scientific and research hubs to develop such a vaccine; tens of thousands of others are, or are being prepared, to take part in tests of the vaccine. Scientists need to proof that a vaccine not only works, but does not do other kinds of harm through side-effects. Vaccines than have to be approved by regulatory authorities - with different procedures for this in different jurisdictions.
We salute the pioneers working on these vaccines - the new weapons that will help humanity defeat coronavirus.
They warn about the risk of destabilisation throughout the Caucasus and of a new humanitarian crisis.