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Record number of new Covid-19 cases in Armenia

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The number of people infected with coronavirus in Armenia is rising steadily every day. By the morning of April 2, 92 more cases had been reported. This is the largest number of new cases within a 24 hour period that the country has yet experienced.

The latest data from the Ministry of Health shows that there are 663 total coronavirus cases in Armenia. 33 of them have already recovered and seven have died.

In light of the growing number of patients, gyms and sports centers in the capital are being equipped with the necessary facilities to function as makeshift hospitals. It is expected that some gyms in the regions will also need to be converted.

Not enough hospital beds

Photos of rows of hospital beds lined up in the main hall of the Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex in Yerevan are circulating around the Armenian Facebook community.

As it turned out, the Armenian government is considering the possibility of moving infected coronavirus patients here.

“The presence of beds in the sports and concert complex does not mean that the epidemic is certain to reach a new stage, but rather that it is predicted…Beds are being placed not only in this complex, but in all regions where sports centers have already been outfitted for this purpose. If necessary, they will be turned into hospitals for patients in moderate, and perhaps even critical condition,” said Health Minister Arsen Torosyan on April 2.

The government, he said, is preparing for all possible scenarios:

“Even worst-case scenarios are being discussed in which, as was the case in some countries, there may not be enough beds to treat patients, not only in hospitals, but also in gyms.”

When will Armenia hit the peak

Armenia may reach the peak number of cases at any time, says the Minister of Health:

“The peak is always reported after the fact, when the number of infections starts decreasing every day. And if everyone follows the rules and recommendations, this will be the peak and the beginning of the decline of the disease. In the near future 400-500 people will be tested, and after the new tests arrive, about 1500 will be tested per day.”

Healthcare workers among the infected

The number of infected healthcare workers is also rising in Armenia.

“I cannot tell you exactly how many medical workers have been infected, but I regret to inform you that the number is rising. Considering their close contact with infected patients, this is inevitable,” said the Minister of Health.

Moreover, some of the medical staff were infected outside of the line of duty.

“There were cases when doctors had contact with infected people outside of the workplace. All these cases are being investigated, and the doctors are being isolated. I want to note that in our current situation, all doctors are important to us, and we are doing everything possible to maintain the efficacy of our healthcare system.

Incidentally, just one day earlier, the minister announced open recruitment for additional medical staff under the age of 55 years.

22 doctors, 8 nurses and 1 junior paramedic responded to the minister’s call.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan posted this video on his Facebook page, captioning it “Our heroic doctors.”

Journalists are curious why there are fewer cases in Georgia

The Minister of Health of Armenia explained why, in his opinion, the number of people infected with coronavirus is much lower in neighboring Georgia than in Armenia:

“Fortunately, Georgia had no incidents where an infected person went to work at a company with 500 employees, or attended a banquet with hundreds of other people. This is why their numbers are lower. I hope that in our country, where people are very friendly and social, we will be able to prevent the growth rate from rising and keep our numbers within the range they are now.”

Some found Torosyan’s explanation unconvincing.

“Can you imagine?! As if it’s just sheer luck that, for example, not a single infected Italian came to Georgia and went to a textile factory where 500 people work, and it’s not due to the fact that flights were canceled in time or because they were actually checking people thoroughly at the border…If you can’t control the spread of the virus, then just admit it,” political analyst Grant Melik-Shahnazaryan wrote on his Facebook page.

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Azerbaijani oil prices decline

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The price of Azeri LT CIF Augusta, produced at the Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) oil field amounted to $18.6 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.14 less compared to April 23, Trend reports with reference to the country’s oil and gas market.

The price of Azeri LT FOB Ceyhan amounted to $16.56 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.12 less compared to April 23.

Azerbaijan has been producing Azeri LT since 1997 and exporting it via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku-Supsa Western Export Pipeline, as well as by rail, to the Georgian port of Batumi.

Azerbaijan also sells its URALS oil from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, delivering it through the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline.

The price of URALS with shipment from the port amounted to $17.32 per barrel on April 24, which is $0.1 less compared to April 23.

The cost of a barrel of Brent Dated oil, produced in the North Sea, amounted to $16.01 per barrel, indicating a decrease of $0.29.

(1 USD = 1.7 AZN on April 25)

News.Az

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Six more opposition activists arrested in Azerbaijan

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Six more opposition activists have been sentenced to administrative detention in Azerbaijan in the latest of a series of arrests of members of the opposition. 

On Friday, Nijat Abdullayev, a member of the Supreme Council of the opposition Popular Front Party, was sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention.

The party reported that he was detained by men in civilian clothes while travelling to a grocery store near his home. 

Abdullayev after leaving court. Photo via Ali Karimli.

A day earlier, Faig Amirli, financial director of opposition newspaper Azadlig and assistant to the head of the opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, was also sentenced to 30 days. 

His wife, Lala Amirli, reported on Facebook on Wednesday that three cars pulled up near their house and the men inside ‘grabbed him by the neck’ and put him in a car and drove away. 

Later that day, two other Popular Front Party members — Ali Karimli’s bodyguard, Ruslan Amirli, and video blogger Natig Izbatov — were also sentenced to 30 days. 

Two members of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Movement (ADR), Shakir Mammadov and Vafadar Aliyev were also sentenced to 15 and 30 days on Monday and Tuesday respectively. 

All six men were found guilty by the court of violating the quarantine regime. 

The Popular Front Party stated that the arrests were politically motivated. 

According to the Administrative Code, violation of a quarantine regime is punishable by fines of ₼100–₼200 ($60–$120) or detention for up to 1 month.

Opposition youth activist ‘warned’

On Wednesday, Ilkin Rustamzade, one of the leaders of pro-democracy youth movement NiDA, reported on Facebook that he expected he might soon be arrested. 

Rustamzade, who recently moved to a rented flat with his wife, said police officers showed up to his parents’ house, where he is registered, earlier that day. After not finding him there, he said officers took his father to a police station before releasing him shortly after. 

According to Rustamzade, the police claimed he had violated the quarantine regime by moving to another flat. 

He said police officers later came to his flat and surrounded the building, but that he refused to leave demanding an official request.

Ilkin Rustamzade during his Facebook broadcast on Wednesday.

‘I moved to the new flat on 2 April and left the house only once by notifying authorities by SMS. Of course, it’s not about the quarantine rules […] it is the continuation of repression against me’, he said. 

According to Rustamzade, ‘about 10 days ago’ he launched a petition urging the government to allocate social benefits to the public and to cancel bank loans and communal bills.

He said that several days later, he received a message on social media from a fake profile who presented himself as a ‘man of the intelligence service’, and warned him that if he did not stop the petition, they would ‘do very filthy things to my wife’. 

Later that day, Rustamzade said that dozens of fake profiles on social media had started writing insulting posts about him and his wife. He said a profile of his wife was created on an escort website.

Later, he reported that their landlord had demanded they move out. 

On Thursday, Amnesty International condemned the harassment of Rustamzade and his family. 

‘Recently, the Azerbaijani authorities have used the COVID-19 pandemic to increasingly crack-down on their critics’, their statement said. 

‘As the arrests and politically motivated prosecution of critics continue, Azerbaijan remains closed to human rights scrutiny.’ 

Rustamzade was pardoned in March 2019 after serving six years in prison on charges of hooliganism, and later ‘inciting violence and organising mass disorder’, for planning a peaceful protest in 2013. 

In a statement on Friday, the National Council of Democratic Forces, an opposition coalition, said the government had been ramping-up its repression of the opposition during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They urged the Azerbaijani people and the international community to loudly condemn ‘these anti-national and anti-human acts’ and to organise a strong protest campaign to stop the policy.

A new wave of repression

In a speech delivered on 19 March, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called any opposition group that did not enter ‘into dialogue’ with the authorities, ‘traitors and corrupt representatives of a fifth column’.

‘Look at what they say on social networks, they are full of hatred and provocation. They seem to want riots to happen. They want turmoil. They want panic’, Aliyev said. 

He added that if a state of emergency were to be declared due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ‘isolation of representatives of the fifth column’ would become ‘a historical necessity’. 

Ali Ahmadov, the deputy chair of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, wrote on Facebook on 23 March that there were ‘two viruses’ in Azerbaijan, COVID-19 and the ‘political virus’ that was the opposition, specifically Ali Karimli. He wrote that the two should be fought against at ‘the same time’.

The National Council of Democratic Forces condemned Aliyev’s speech, calling it ‘fascist’. They also accused Aliyev of planning false ‘plots’ that would give him justification for repressing the opposition. 

Two days after Aliyev’s speech, Samir Babayev, a member of the opposition Muslim Unity Movement, was the first opposition activist to be arrested during the pandemic.

He was detained while he and other members of the movement distributed medical masks and information brochures about COVID-19 outside a central metro station in Baku. He was placed under administrative arrest for one month. 

The following day, Tofig Yagublu, an opposition politician from the Musavat Party, was sentenced to three months in prison on the charges of hooliganism.

Tofig Yagublu in front of the Nizami District Court. Photo: Nigar Hazi/Facebook.

Later that day, Anar Malikov, a member of the Popular Front Party, was placed under administrative arrest for 10 days accused of ‘violating quarantine’.

Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli called Babayev, Yagublu, and Malikov, ‘coronavirus prisoners’.

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan arrests opposition activists during COVID-19 outbreak

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Georgia coronavirus cases reach 385

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The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia has reached 385, according to local media.

So far, 3 patients have died from the infection and 84 others have recovered in Georgia.

Georgia confirmed the first case of coronavirus on February 26.

As many as 4,971 citizens are under quarantine.

News.Az

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