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Live Blog - 17 April 2020
17 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

Friday, 17 April 2020

1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this live blog for today.

We will be back tomorrow Saturday at 12 noon CEST (1400 in Tbilisi and in Dubai)

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

Be Safe! Be Healthy! Be Happy!

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1555 CEST (1755 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 UNITED KINGDOM

On a lighter note, this BBC news item gives you a sense of how in Britain they are dealing with StayingAtHome

Vodka and chocolate are among the most bought items at convenience stores during the lockdown, according to new UK data.

The luxuries are being snapped up alongside isolation essentials such as bread, milk and toilet roll, payments provider Paypoint said.

The company, which serves 28,000 stores across the UK, said sales were up 56% compared with the same time last year.

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1545 CEST (1745 Tbilisi/Dubai)

we want to end by adding our voice to this important message from ODIHR

1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

NATO IN THE TIME OF CORONA

All the world has had to adapt to the current covid-19 crisis. Organisations such as NATO have to do so whilst not reducing their alertness or operational capabaility.

The Secretary General of NATO this week gave a virtual press conference in which he explained how the Alliance and its members is adapting

Read more here

 

1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Turkey

The country's Labour, social services and family minister said that no Turkish employers will be allowed to lay off any worker during the pandemic. Additionally, employment contracts may be nullified during the upcoming three-month period.

Turkey will pay 39.24 Turkish liras, or about $5.70, per day for three months to workers who were forced to take unpaid leaves. Several social measures were approved by the Parliament yesterday.

Turkey's death toll reached 1,643, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on April 16. Turkey now has recorded nearly 75,000 cases of covid-19.

 

 

Police patrol an empty Istiqlal Caddesi in Central Istanbul last weekend

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1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

A lot of artistic effort is being put into entertaining humanity during the lockdown.

For our wellness moment for today William Murray has been looking at an event which is being organised over the weekend.

The World Health Organization (WHO) with Global Citizen - an organisation dedicated to bringing people together to help achieve the goal of ending global poverty by 2030 - are hosting a virtual global gathering. 'Together At Home' is a series of daily, online, no-contact concerts set up by Global Citizen "to inspire us all to stay inside and take action." Performances over the last weeks have included the likes of Coldplay's Chris Martin, the Barenaked Ladies, and Jack Johnson; but tomorrow's event is set to be much larger.

read more about it here

 

1430 CEST (1630 Tbilisi/Dubai)

 Egypt

Egypt's night-time curfew is likely to be extended during Ramadan to curb the spread of the virus, local media reported.

The curfew has been in effect since March and now runs from 8 PM to 6 PM. Mosques will remain closed as well as all cafes, cinemas and public spaces. However, curfew times for Ramadan might differ slightly.

Other countries in #MENA are also likely to follow suit of Egypt, Palestine and Saudi Arabia who announced that all Ramadan prayers and activities will be cancelled.

 

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1350 CEST (1550 in Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have two more updates related to the Orthodox Easter 

 Bulgaria

Bulgaria's capital Sofia was sealed off at midnight on Thursday ahead of the Orthodox Easter holiday as people ignored restrictions on movement in an attempt to get away for a break

Churches in Bulgaria have remained open for Easter despite appeals from the government to close.

  Greece

Tens of thousands of police have been deployed across Greece to ensure people do not try to head for holiday homes or churches. Greece has seen 105 deaths but has been widely praised for containing the spread of coronavirus

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1330 CEST (1530 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We have two updates from Europe, prepared by Maximiliaan van Lange of our Research team:

  Germany

The German Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, announced on Friday (17 April) that as from August Germany will be able to produce fifty million masks per week for the health sector. Contracts are being signed with a number of German companies.

 Netherlands

According to statistics from Dutch Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 5,000 people died in the Netherlands in the second week of April. Of these, almost 2,000 died from Covid-19 - a considerably large number in comparison with other countries. 

In the past few weeks, mainly older people died from Covid-19. CBS estimates that 1,850 people were 65 years or older during their deaths.

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1310 CEST (1510 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Some more updates from the Caucasus Region

  Armenia

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is expected to address the nation in a TV broadcast tonight at 2000 local time. He is expected to give an update on the situation around the pandemic, as well as the economic consequences of the current shutdown.

  Georgia

The controversy around the Orthodox Church continues.

Today is Good Friday in Orthodox tradition, and the start of a weekend of prayer and religious services. The Georgian Orthodox Church has refused to close Churches during the pandemic, nor to bar parishoners from attending Church services.

On its part the Georgian government has stopped short of ordering the Church to close its temples. The matter has now become an issue of controversy in the country with opposition politicians criticisng the government for its inaction

Giga Bokeria, senior leader of the European Georgia group said the country was being held to ransom:

"Law-abiding, conscious, believing citizens are being held hostage by irrational, irresponsible authorities and religious fanatics, according to Giga Bokeria. He said that what the government and "religious fanatics" are doing is not only a political farce, but also a political catastrophe."

 Azerbaijan

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party, and a number of smaller allied parties, have issued a statement supporting the government's efforts to containt the coronavirus pandemic and criticisng some opposition parties who they say are trying to use the current lockdown to make partisan criticism of the government. In their statement the parties emphasised the importance of further strengthening national unity and solidarity at this time.

The parties signing the statement include, New Azerbaijan Party; "Motherland" Party; Whole Azerbaijan Popular Front Party; Civil Solidarity Party; Great Establishment Party; Democratic Reforms Party; Democratic Enlightenment Party; Unity Party and Civil Union Party. 

The statement is available in Azerbaijani on the YAP website here 

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1245 CEST (1445 Tbilisi/Dubai)

An uplifting news item from Gaza (Palestine)

Artists in Gaza are raising awareness by writing poetry stanzas on masks and in public places. 

 “We drew the same masks used by characters of [Netflix’s] 'La Casa de Papel' on masks for young people. We opted for stanzas or quotes by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish for older people,” says one artist. 

 “We noticed that the children refused to wear plain white masks, so we made colourful drawings on dozens of medical masks, and we posted pictures online. Everyone loved them. Then we headed to al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, which is the poorest area in the Strip, and distributed the masks after disinfecting them,” 

 Artists work in a team and spend 5 hours to paint about 40 masks every day. 

 Two other young artists use performance art to raise awareness by dressing themselves as clowns and visiting refugee camps. “

 

1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  European Union

The economic impact of Covid-19 is significant and will leave scars on the European continent in the future. In the automotive sector the pandemic is leaving its mark as European car sales halved in March. An update from Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of our research team.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) reports that car sales in the European Union (EU) dropped 55.1 per cent in March compared to the same month last year. Many car dealers will have to remain closed due to lockdown measures. As a result, consumer demand is declining, resulting in a drop in a sharp in the demand for cars. Within the EU, a total of 567,000 cars were sold in March, compared to more than 1.26 million in the same month in 2019. Automotive production country Germany also saw a substantial decline of 37.7 per cent.

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1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Now for some updates from across the Caucasus Region

 Georgia

Georgia introduced a ban on traffic vehicles from 12 noon today until 21 April. Starting from tomorrow, face masks will also be mandatory in the public. 

These pictures show the usually busy Saburtalo District of Tbilisi empty of all traffic. They were taken at around 1300 today by George Simonishvili a member of the commonspace.eu Liaison Team in Tbilisi

 

Also in Georgia, health officials recommended the strictest measures to curb the spread as the country's Orthodox community celebrates Easter this weekend. Churches will remain open but medical officials urged everyone not to attend. 'Stay home or what happened to Italy will happen to us' they said. Critics have pointed that Georgia is a secular state and the government should have been firmer in dealing with the Church. The government also announced earlier that it would penalize anyone breaking the rules of state of emergency, including those who gather outside churches.

 

 Azerbaijan 

The Azerbaijan's Management Union of Medical Territorial Units (TABIB) launched the  REACT-C19 initiative in order to train and strengthen skills needed to fight the pandemic. The initiative contains medical training courses. Several doctors will be involved in the initiative. Another initiative has also been launched to use medical masks and gloves for research instead of disposing them. TABIB expects an increase in the number of recoveries in the coming weeks. 

  Armenia

The 19th person to die from coronavirus in Armenia was named as the famous Armenian singer Sargis Shiboyan. (picture)

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1205 CEST (1405 Tbilisi/Dubai)

    Israel/Palestine

We have in this blog been constantly reminding of the greater threat that covid-19 poses especially to vulnerable groups such as refugees and displaced persons, and people living in conflict regions. There are plenty of these in the Middle East.

A prominent Canadian-Palestinian doctor who had his own loss from the conflict, but who has since dedicated himself to promoting peace in the region, Dr  Izzeldine Abueleish, has written a passionate article in the Jerusalem Post calling for the pandemic to trigger a new page in relations between Palestinians and Israelis.

"The virus will not separate us forever. We all share only one blue sky. What we need now is a pandemic of justice, equality, equity, health, security, peace and freedom. It is time to move from conflict to cooperation and from exclusive to inclusive. Together we stand or divided we fail", he writes.

You can read his op-ed in full on The Jerusalem Post here

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Here is a general update from across the MENA region compiled by Noman Ahmed of our Research Team

  Jordan

Jordan will create a transitory council headed by the Prime Minister to oversee the post-pandemic transition. The council will consist of economists, senior public officials and private sector representatives. Its role will be to offer opinions and advice on all matters presented by the government in order to create a comprehensive vision for the recovery of the economy. Measures will consider both macro- and micro-level reforms 

 Palestine 

Ramadan prayers are suspended in Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque as the city's Muslim community awaits the holy month. Al-Aqsa mosque i Islam's third-holiest site which draws tens of thousands of Muslims daily for 30 days for the evening prayers. 

The decision was called "painful" but was in line with legal and medical advice. 

 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 presidency, has pledged $500 million to support global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.

The Kingdom will allocate $150 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, $150 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, and $200 million to other international and regional health organizations and programs.

It also called on all countries, non-governmental organizations, philanthropies and the private sector to help close a financing gap estimated at over $8 billion to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

It is Friday, 17 April 2020, 12 noon Central European Summer Time, 1400 hours in Tbilisi and Dubai. 

Across Europe and North America there is a sense that the battle against coronavirus is being won, but governments are insisting that complacency can be a big risk, and warning that things cannot return to how they were two months ago any time soon.

Across the world the picture is more patchy. In some areas coivd-19 is just starting to spread, and many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America do not seem to be ready for it. 

The picture in the Middle East is somewhat more complicated. In some countries Governments have the resource to put up a fight against the pandemic, and they are registering already some success. The problem is exacerbated with concerns about the data emerging from some countries such as Egypt and Iraq, as well as the conflict regions such as Yemen and Libya. 

Our blog today will focus on the Middle East, although of course we will also have other stories from the South Caucasus, Europe and Eurasia and beyond.

Our cover photo today is from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 

The UAE was ranked as the world’s 10th best for #COVID19 treatment efficacy and the first among Arab nations. The UAE has opened new hospitals and several accessible testing centers like the one in the picture. This was stated in a study  published by The Deep Knowledge Group, a UK based non-profit organisation involved in research, investment and entrepreneurship.

 Germany received the top score followed by China, South Korea, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Israel and Japan.

 

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