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Live Blog -22 April 2020
22 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

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Wednesday, 22 April 2020

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1600 CEST (1800 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are now pausing this blog for today. We will be back tomorrow at 12 noon CEST (1400 Tbilisi/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)

  Lebanon

On this blog we regularly remind our readers of the plight of refugees, IDPs and people living in conflict zones in this time of world crisis.

This news item is a disturbing development concerning one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where the first confirmed case of coronavirus in one of the country's numerous and crowded camps has now been confirmed

The patient, a Palestinian refugee from Syria, has been taken to the state-run Rafic Hariri hospital in Beirut, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said in a statement late Tuesday.

Medical experts were due to visit the Wavel camp in the eastern Bekaa Valley later on Wednesday to carry out tests, the agency added.
The testing will focus on the woman's relatives and people she has interacted with, as well as 50 others chosen arbitrarily "inside the camp and its surroundings," said Lebanon's official National News Agency.

In coordination with Lebanese security forces, Palestinian factions in charge of security have imposed a lockdown on the camp, preventing anyone from entering or leaving, the NNA report said.
The United Nations and aid groups have repeatedly warned that refugees and migrants in crowded camps worldwide are at special risk of the new coronavirus.

More than 2,000 people live in Wavel, according to statistics released by Lebanon's government after a 2017 census, but the UN agency says the population of those registered in the camp are much higher.
Aid groups have warned that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in Lebanon's overcrowded camps are the most vulnerable and that self-isolating patients in the camps where sanitation is weak would be one of the top challenges.

More than 70 million people globally been forced by conflict, persecution, violence and abuses to flee their homes, including more than 20 million people living as refugees, according to UN data.

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1530 CEST (1730 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Today is Earth Day. Maximiliaan van Lange, marks it for us with this update

The Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taala, expects that as a result of the covid-19 crisis, global CO₂ emissions in 2020 will decrease by about 6 per cent compared to 2019, the sharpest decline since World War II. The reduction in emissions is because transport is partially idle and that less energy is used in the industry. Because it is a temporary decrease, it will not replace the current climate policy. Taala argues for more stringent measures to reduce emissions in the longer term and to combat climate change are necessary. According to Taala, societies must show the same dedication and unity in combating climate change as in combating Covid-19.

 

 

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1515 CEST (1715 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Russia

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia is now just under 58,000, according tom data released by the Russian government this afternoon. This ius an increase of over 5000 in the last twenty four hours.

The number of deaths has now reached 513.

Of the 57 who died in the last twenty four hours 28 fatalities have been confirmed in Moscow, 7 in the Moscow Region, 3 in the Krasnodar Region, St. Petersburg and Ingushetia, and 2 in the Kaluga Region. One death was recorded in the Volgograd, Voronezh, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol and Tula Regions, as well as in the Republics of Adygeya, Komi, Chechnya and the Stavropol Region.

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1500 CEST (1700 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Georgia:  Marneuli protests update

So we have an update on that protest that was held in Georgia's Marneuli district earlier. The region is a mainly Azerbaijani speaking area, and the matter is being closely followed by the Azerbaijani media.

The Azerbaijani news agency APA local bureau reports that an agreement was reached between the protesters and government officials. The protestors were complaining that because of the lockdown they were not able to sell their agricultural products.

According to Tengiz Kalandadze, Chief of Staff of the Georgian Ministry of Environment and Agriculture, the purchase price of produce from the villagers has been doubled, and additional trucks will arrive in the area for loading. After the agreement was reached, the protesters opened the Shulaveri-Marneuli highway.Earlier, the Adviser to the Georgian Prime Minister on Regional Affairs Sozar Subari visited the village of Shulaveri in Marneuli, where the protests were taking place. Subari, who got acquainted with the protesters' demands, and said that citizens will be able to sell agricultural products at higher prices.

Residents of Arafli, Ulashli, Agmamedli, Girikhli, Ashagi Gullar and other villages of Marneuli were involved in the protests.

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1445 CEST (1645 Tbilisi/Dubai)

Chechnya

It appears there is a new fashion in Chechnya, as a result of the closure of barber shops because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday, Chechen leader Ramazan Kadyrov placed a video on Instagram showing his head completely shaven.

"I recommend that all shave their heads as beauty salons are closed and households do not have barbers... Our ancestors did so and, most importantly, that is what the Prophet [Muhammad] did in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday," Kadyrov said in the video.

It seems some Chechen officials have decided to follow their leader and also shave their heads.

 

1430 CEST (1630 Tbilsi/Dubai)

More updates from the Caucasus Region

   

Yesterday the EU High Representative Josep Borrell had a phone call with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. This statement has just come out from the European External Action Service in Brussels:

During the meeting, High Representative Borrell and Prime Minister Gakharia discussed the coronavirus outbreak, including the handling of the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences. They expressed their mutual solidarity, and High Representative Borrell emphasised the EU's support to Georgia to face this crisis. As part of the EU's global response to the coronavirus outbreak, a support package for the six Eastern Partnership countries has been put in place totalling €80 million for immediate needs in the health sector and €883 million for short-term needs for socio-economic recovery. Out of this support, Georgia will specifically benefit from over €183 million of redirected bilateral funds.

In view of the comprehensive partnership between the EU and Georgia, which is based on the ambitious Association Agreement, the High Representative and the Prime Minister agreed to further strengthen the relationship and looked forward to meeting at the next Association Council as soon as circumstances allow.

The European Union is a strong supporter of Georgia's reform process. It also firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. In this context, recent "borderisation activities" along the Administrative Boundary Line of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia are completely unacceptable.

In the meantime, today the Georgian Parliament has extended the State of Emergency until 22 May. The president of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili addressed the parliament before the vote was taken.

Yesterday, Tbilisi's communication tower was lit up in the colours of Armenia as an expression of solidarity with the people of Armenia in this time of crisis

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1400 CEST (1600 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We are at the mid-point of our daily blog for today, and we think it is time to cheer up our readers a bit.

Art is a strong medium of expression. Whether being used by celebrities to raise money for charity, as a way to spread awareness and positive messages, or as a form of personal expression, escapism and mediation, art has the potential to play a vital role in how we handle and cope with the coronavirus crisis. William Murray has been looking at why Art is so important, and how we can we contribute? 

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1330 CEST (1530 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  United Kingdom

We have said this before, but there is something very eerie about empty streets, especially the one we know, and know to be always full of people. Regent Street in London is famous for Christmas Shopping when people come from all over the world to buy their favorite presents for their loved ones.

Today it is empty. This picture from the BBC in London

 

13.15 CEST (1415 Tbilisi/Dubai)

    Armenia-Azerbaijan

The Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk process have expressed the hope that the resolve seen in the global pandemic response will bring a creative and constructive impetus to the peace process they are engaged in. The diplomats stated this in a statement issued on Tuesday (21 April) following a video conference, which replaced a planned face to face meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

read the statement here

1300 CEST (1500 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We remain in the Caucasus Region for the moment with more updates on how the pandemic is effecting the region

   Georgia

Georgia continues to report low rates of infection, with 411 cases reported and 5 deaths.

We have more picrture coming in from our colleagues in Tbilisi bout the unfolding situation in Marneuli, a mainly Azerbaijani speaking district in Southern Georgia where people - completely disregarding social distancing - are calling for an end to the lockdown. There are reports that the portestors are shouting "Misha, Misha" - a reference to georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili

This screen grab is from Georgia's public broacaster (Channel 1)

 

 

 

1230 CEST (1430 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Georgia

And on the other side of the Caucasian Mountains, in the mainly Azerbaijani speaking district of Marneuli, in Georgia, another protest by people saying the lockdown has to stop because their families are hungry and normal life has to resume. (Picture below is a screen grab from TV Pirvelli providied by the commonspace.eu liaison team in Tbilisi)

 

1220 CEST (1420 Tbilisi/Dubai)

  Russian Federation - North Ossetia-Alania

Details are emergin of some unrest in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania in the Russian North Caucasus.

These screen grabs from several social media videos, provided by our liaison team in Tbilisi, show protestors in the city of Vladikafkaz on Monday (20 April)

Around 500 demonstrators have gathered in the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz to protest against job losses and lack of information about the coronavirus outbreak, Russia's MBKh News website reported on Monday. National Guard troops have been deployed at the scene and at least three people, including the organizers, have been detained, the outlet added.

"I didn't make up this disease and there's one treatment: stay home," Vyacheslav Bitarov, the Head of the republic of North Ossetia, was quoted as telling protesters in an attempt to get them to disperse.

Footage on social media from the scene showed a large gathering in apparent violation of social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. At least one video showed security officers dragging a protester away from the heart of the rally. 

Unconfirmed reports said that up to 1,500 residents took part in the rally. 

The unrest in Vladikavkaz follows anti-isolation protests in another North Ossetia town, Digora, that drew around 100 people earlier in April.

North Ossetia had reported 145 coronavirus cases and two deaths as of Monday. 

 

 

 

1210 CEST (1410 Tbilisi/Dubai)

We start with some updates from across Europe, prepared by Maximiliaan van Lange, a member of our research team.

  Italy

A report by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) says that Italy is on its way to an unprecedented collapse of GDP due to Covid-19. For the first half of 2020, there is a threat of a 15% decline.

The Italian economy already stagnated in 2019, has had a miserable trimester. The PBO explained that: "the rapid expansion of the health emergency from the end of February has changed the cyclical framework with a speed and intensity without precedent in peacetime".

The country recently announced a gradual relaxation of restrictive measures as of 4 May. At the end of this week, the Italian government will present its plans, announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.

 Spain

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said at a meeting in Parliament on Wednesday morning that Spain could relax the strict anti-Covid-19 measures from mid-May. Last weekend, the measures had been extended until May 9. Sánchez also announced on Saturday (18 April) that the restrictions for children will be relaxed as early as April 27. Children will then be allowed to go outside again under strict conditions.

 France

There has been a fourth consecutive night of unrest in the Paris suburb of Villeneuve-la-Garenne. Social tensions have risen further under strict lockdown rule.

 Germany

This September's Berlin Marathon has been called off after Germany extended its ban on large public gatherings until 24 October

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

It is Wednesday, 22 April 2020 – 12 noon Central European Summer Time, equivalent to 14.00 in Tbilisi and in Dubai.

If three months ago one would have told any average person in the world about how the human race will going around its daily life by April, she or he would have dismissed it as a joke or a science fiction story. Despite the fertile imagination of human beings there are some things that would seem to us to be too illogical to ever happen. The world could, at a stretch, imagine life after a nuclear war, and governments had plans of what to do in case a nuclear bomb fell on London, Moscow or New York. But few ever imagined living through a pandemic, and what that would mean.

But, so far, most people seem able to adapt to the new normal. Our cover picture today is of people out shopping in New York two days ago. In this picture from AFP, a woman wearing a hazmat suit and googles pulls her grocery cart in the streets in district of Queens, whilst other shoppers in the background are seen wearing masks. Social distancing we are told is not going to go away fast, and 2020 is likely to be remembered as the year of the mask, and of much else as well.

 

 

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