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COVID-19: Armenian, Moldovan, Romanian Police Enforce National Lockdowns

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A police armored vehicle patrols a street in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on March 25.

The global death toll from the coronavirus has passed 20,000 with more than 450,000 infections confirmed, 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.

Romania

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Romania has surpassed 900, including 13 deaths, as the authorities deployed army troops on the streets to enforce a "total quarantine."

Romania has been under a state of emergency since March 16.

But the number of coronavirus cases has continued to grow as many people ignored recommendations to stay indoors, prompting President Klaus Iohannis to strengthen the restrictions on March 24 by declaring "a total quarantine."

The authorities on March 25 reported 144 more infections, bringing the total to 907 out of some 14,000 people tested. The death toll of 13 on March 25 was an increase from eight during the previous 24 hours.

Armored vehicles manned by soldiers in combat gear and face masks were patrolling downtown Bucharest on March 25 after Iohannis ordered the army to help police enforce the lockdown.

Moldova

Neighboring Moldova on March 25 reported 16 more coronavirus cases during the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections there to 125.

"A total of 1,011 coronavirus tests have been carried out since March 7, and 125 of them were positive," Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said. "One person has died."

Armored vehicles were seen patrolling the streets of Moldova's capital, Chisinau, after Prime Minister Ion Chicu on March 24 asked the military to help enforce restrictions.

"We have decided to resort to the army's help," Chicu said. "We have decided to restrict the people's access to public areas, such as parks, public gardens, and other places. This is a hard decision, but it is necessary to stop the virus from spreading."

According to a tally published on March 25 by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 436,150 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide -- including about 19,650 deaths.

Armenia

Police in Armenia have begun enforcing a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus by ensuring people are following new restrictions to freedom of movement.

The toughened measures, which will remain in force for at least one week, come as the number of coronavirus cases in the South Caucasus country increased to 265 on March 25.

Health authorities say 18 people have recovered from the respiratory illness. No deaths have been reported.

People leaving their homes in the country of nearly 3 million people must carry identity credentials and self-completed forms that explain their reason for being outdoors.

The information must include destination, duration outside, and the time the person left as well as the estimated time when he or she plans to return home.

Citizens are allowed to travel to and from work if they are employed in a field whose activities have not been not suspended by the government.

They are also permitted to leave their homes to exercise or to buy food or medicine.

Only two people, including the driver, can be inside a vehicle at the same time.

The Armenian government on March 16 declared a one-month state of emergency to contain the outbreak.

The country has closed its border with Georgia and Iran -- one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the virus.

And citizens of a number of countries, including the United States and EU member states, are not allowed entry to Armenia.

Ukraine

Ukraine's government has declared a state of emergency to cope with the spread of the coronavirus as it seeks to unlock billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The 30-day measure was approved on March 25 at a cabinet meeting broadcast live on television.

At the meeting, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the new measures would not hinder individual constitutional rights and only “consolidate efforts to overcome the threat” of the coronavirus.

He also proposed a border closure plan to ban all passenger traffic in and out of the country that would apply to Ukrainian nationals as well.

"This is an urgent need, because, in recent weeks, we have seen that the only source of coronavirus penetration into Ukraine has been the flow of citizens from abroad, and this flow continues," Shmyhal said.

Previously, only Kyiv and some regions of Ukraine had declared states of emergency.

The cabinet on March 25 also extended quarantine measures -- basically stay-at-home orders -- until at least April 24. The order, in place since March 12, originally was to be in effect through April 3.

Ukraine confirmed 32 new cases on March 25, bringing the nationwide total to 145 in 13 regions and Kyiv, according to the Center for Public Health.

Four lawmakers are among those who have tested positive.

Five deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. The patients' ages ranged from 33 to 71 years.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that after March 27 no more flights will be allowed to land in or depart from the country, while calling on Ukrainians to come home or risk remaining stranded indefinitely.

“There are two days. Gather yourselves and come home, my dear fellows. And after that, you will remain sitting somewhere in Sri Lanka in a luxurious hut. Well, sit there more, since you decided to do so. Because two weeks have passed from the moment when we got into this situation,” Avakov said.

He added that Ukrainians will still be able to enter Ukraine by foot or in a vehicle.

Parliament, meanwhile, has pushed back a scheduled extraordinary session from March 26 to March 28 to address the coronavirus outbreak and pass bills required by the IMF.

The legislation would enable sessions and committee meetings via video conferencing for at least two months. It also includes measures to cope with the coronavirus, improve social and economic conditions, and amend the budget.

Among the laws required to unlock a $5.5 billion IMF loan is a change of bank regulations to prevent tycoons from regaining control of financial institutions which were nationalized during a period of insolvency from 2014 to 2016.

Kyiv is reportedly seeking a second package worth about $5 billion related to the negative economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, police are investigating an unnamed private medical clinic in Kyiv for possible violations of sanitation rules related to the prevention of infectious diseases and widespread poisoning, local media reported.

Investigators are following up on reports that the clinic may have failed to inform the Health Ministry’s Center for Public Health regarding positive test results for coronavirus.

Russia

The government's coronavirus task force has admitted to Russia's first two deaths from the respiratory illness known as COVID-19. Two patients, aged 88 and 73, died on March 25.

The task force has not included the earlier deaths of two other coronavirus patients in Russia as part of its tally, saying they had died of other causes.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin earlier on March 25 ordered provincial governors to move more quickly to provide hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

The government had earlier reported 658 infections, up from 495 a day before, a rise Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said was almost three times higher than the previous average of confirmed cases.

"There are currently 658 cases in 55 regions of Russia. Twenty-nine people have recovered. A total of 112,000 people are being monitored in self-isolation," Golikova told a meeting of the country's federal coronavirus operative response group that is coordinating the fight against the coronavirus.

The same number appeared on the government's official website dedicated to the coronavirus outbreak in Russia.

Mishustin's warning to regional governors came a day after the mayor of Moscow told Putin that the Russian regions weren't acting energetically enough to prepare for the outbreak.

Sergei Sobyanin warned that the low number of cases in Russia compared to Europe could be explained by insufficient screening and called for quicker action to brace for the worst. He has ordered the closure of all eateries, shopping malls, and parks from March 28 to April 5.

As of March 25, Russian authorities had not reported any coronavirus deaths. A 79-year-old woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 died last week at a Moscow infectious disease hospital. At first, Moscow health authorities said the death was virus related, but officials quickly changed the cause of death to a blood clot, not the coronavirus.

Pakistan

Pakistan has announced it is halting all domestic passenger flights to stop the spread of the coronavirus after reporting 1,000 cases in the country.

The domestic flight ban will begin on March 26, civil aviation spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar said.

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Islamabad had previously cut train service and international flights.

Most of those who initially tested positive were Pakistani pilgrims returning from neighboring Iran, which has seen the Mideast's worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

However, officials now say the virus is being reported in people who had no travel history.

As of March 25, 1,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Pakistan, with seven deaths and 19 full recoveries, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Iran

Iran on March 25 announced 143 new deaths from the coronavirus, raising the official death toll to 2,077 in one of the world's worst-hit countries.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said "our colleagues have registered 2,206 new cases of COVID-19 infection" in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 27,017.

Jahanpur's announcement came a day after Iran rejected an offer from a Geneva-based medical charity to set up a 50-bed inflatable hospital in the central city of Isfahan to deal with the outbreak.

A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) crisis-response team comprised of nine emergency and intensive-care unit doctors and logisticians were to run the unit to be set up in the compound of the city’s Amin hospital, the organization said.

Michel-Olivier Lacharite, who is in charge of the MSF team, said on March 24 that the organization had been ready to set up the unit at the end of the week after being given prior approval from the authorities.

"We are surprised to learn that the deployment of our treatment unit is canceled," Lacharite said.

With reporting RFE/RL's Armenian, Moldovan, Romanian, and Ukrainian services, AP, Dawn, Reuters, G4media.ro, Hotnews.ro, Interfax, Hromadske, Interfax, and Ukrayinska pravda
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