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COVID-19: Central Asia Employs Additional Measures; Armenia Suspends Exports Of Medical Items

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A state of emergency has been announced in Kyrgzystan's southern district of Nookat.

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 246,000 people and killed over 10,000 worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of developments in RFE/RL's broadcast countries.

Central Asia

Central Asian nations are moving to take additional measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Uzbekistan's Transport Ministry said on its Telegram channel that international terrestrial and air passenger traffic has been suspended for 40 days as of March 20.

The regulation does not affect cargo transportation.

Also on March 20, state-run media in Uzbekistan reported that President Shavkat Mirziyoev signed a decree to establish an anti-crisis fund of $1 billion to deal with the effects of the coronavirus.

Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous nation, with 32 million people.

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In neighboring Kazakhstan, five more coronavirus cases were reported on March 20, including the first two cases outside Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the country's largest city, Almaty.

With three more cases in Almaty and two in the central city of Qaraghandy, the number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan is now 49.

As of March 19, Nur-Sultan and Almaty have been sealed off with police, security forces, and military personnel blocking roads and highways inside and around the two cities.


In Kyrgyzstan, a state of emergency was announced in the southern district of Nookat, where another three coronavirus cases were reported on March 20, bringing the total number to six. Earlier, a state of emergency was announced in the Suzak district, where three men tested positive for the coronavirus.

All six persons recently returned to Kyrgyzstan from Saudi Arabia.

In Tajikistan, the government suspended all international flights as of March 20. No coronavirus cases have been reported in Tajikistan so far.

In Turkmenistan, RFE/RL correspondents report that as of March 19, Ashgabat, the capital, has been surrounded with checkpoints to regulate entrances into the city. Only residents of Ashgabat can enter the city now. No coronavirus cases were officially recorded.

According to the correspondents, intercity movement in Turkmenistan has also been restricted.

Armenia

Armenia has suspended exports of some medical items over the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, who coordinates Armenia's efforts under a 30-day state-of-emergency rule, published a list of products subject to restrictions on March 19 that includes protective gear for medics, equipment for mechanical lung ventilation, COVID-19 test kits, respirators, medical masks, alcohol-based sanitizers, and other items.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said earlier in the week that his government would allocate at least 150 billion drams (some $300 million) to support the economy and limit the impact of the pandemic.

Armenia's Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sports said on March 20 that all universities in the country will switch to online learning.

The current number of officially recorded coronavirus cases in Armenia is 136.

Azerbaijan

In neighboring Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on March 19, allocating 1 billion manats ($600 million) to deal with the impact of the pandemic on the oil-rich nation's economy.

Meanwhile, as of March 20, the number of the coronavirus cases in Azerbaijan is 44, with one fatality.

Georgia

In another South Caucasus nation, Georgia, where as of March 19, only groceries, pharmacies, gas stations, post offices, and banks were allowed to operate, the number of coronavirus cases reached 43.

Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked Pakistani citizens to strictly follow the policy of self-quarantine and social distancing to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Addressing journalists in Islamabad on March 20, Khan said he was not in favor of total lockdown of the country, saying it would affect poor people.

Khan warned that if the number of infected people continues to spike, Pakistan may not have the necessary facilities to properly handle the situation.

He also advised against buying food in bulk to avoid shortages.

Pakistan, a country of roughly 220 million people, has confirmed 481 cases of coronavirus so far, most of them linked to travel to neighboring Iran, and three deaths.

Khan also called for the lifting of sanctions on Iran so that Tehran can better deal with the coronavirus crisis.

"It is very unjust they are dealing with such a large outbreak on one side, and on the other they are facing international sanctions," Khan said.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that U.S. sanctions were "impairing" Iran's ability to fight COVID-19.

Russia

Russian officials said on March 20 that 54 cases of the coronavirus were confirmed across the country during the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Russia to 253.

The coronavirus crisis center in Moscow said the 54 new cases were registered in Moscow and in eight other regions.

Since the pandemic hit Russia, 12 patients have recovered from the virus and have been released from medical institutions.

One coronavirus patient, a 79-year-old woman, has died. But authorities said the cause of her death was not officially registered as COVID-19 because an autopsy revealed she had died of a blood clot.

President Vladimir Putin on March 17 called the coronavirus pandemic "an external threat."

Putin assured Russian citizens that the situation was "generally under control." But many Russians have expressed distrust about official accounts of Russia's outbreak and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

As the number of infections in Russia has risen, officials have temporarily barred entry into the country of foreigners. They also have imposed restrictions on passenger flights and public gatherings.

Russia's national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions on all travelers from abroad with a decree that requires "all individuals arriving to Russia" to be isolated for medical observation.

Meanwhile, activists in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan have sued authorities of the regional capital, Kazan, for ordering them to provide participants to planned protest rallies with surgical masks because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Organizers of the rallies against constitutional amendments that, among other things, would allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power after his term ends in 2024 told RFE/RL that the city administration approved their request to hold three protests on March 22 in Kazan only on condition they provide participants with face masks and regularly measure the participants' body temperature during the rallies.

Activists Emil Garayev and Vladimir Kolodtsev told RFE/RL that authorities justified the order by citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The order was included in the city administration's response to the activists' request for permission to hold the rallies.

The activists filed a lawsuit against the mayor's office, challenging the order, adding that a lawyer from the Open Russia opposition organization, Elza Nisanbekova, is their legal representative.

The activists also say that they received the city administration's answer to their request seven days after they officially filed it, although the law provides for an answer to be delivered in three days.

Ukraine

Ukraine has declared a state of emergency in the capital and two regions as a measure to counteract the spread the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on March 20 that a state of emergency had been declared in the city of Kyiv, the east-central Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, and the western Ivano-Fankivsk Oblast.

"No new restrictions are yet to be expected. The emergency mode is designed to mobilize efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19," he wrote on Telegram.

Earlier, states of emergency were declared in Kyiv and Zhytomyr oblasts in the north-central part of the country and the southwestern region of Chernivtsi.

Under the state of emergency, the heads of the affected regions are expected to implement coordinated measures to curtail the spread of the virus and to submit daily reports to the Health Ministry.

The same day, Ukraine’s parliament reported that it would continue working normally even though lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group tested positive for the coronavirus on March 18.

As of March 20, Ukraine has reported 26 coronavirus infections and three fatalities.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reported that the first Ukrainian had recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

“A patient from Chernivtsi has again been tested for the coronavirus, and his test was negative for the second time,” Zelenskiy said in a national address. “This means we can officially say that Ukraine now has its first person to have recovered from the coronavirus. He will be discharged from the hospital today.”

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Tatar-Bashkir services
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