Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizade, and Chair of Azerbaijan-UK Friendship Group in Azerbaijani Parliament, Javanshir Feyziyev MP, recount Azerbaijan’s timely and effective measures against COVID-19
The recent coronavirus pandemic hammers home one simple truth: there are situations where it is not the size or economic potential of the states that matter most, but the swift and timely handling of the crisis. In this sense, despite being a relatively small country, Azerbaijan’s fight against COVID-19 has so far been a successful one.
Protecting public health
Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to introduce early and effective measures to keep the virus under sensible control during its first wave.
To guarantee rapid and coordinated response mechanisms to the crisis, an Operational Headquarters was established under the Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers, which conducts daily live briefings with the media to provide the population with up-to-date official information on the situation.
A special quarantine regime was introduced in the country, where except for key sectors, the operation of all public and private entities were suspended, all public events were postponed and land and air transport communications (excluding international trade transportation) were temporarily adjourned. While staying at home, an SMS-based permit system has allowed people to partake in essential travel to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors surgeries and funerals within a two hour window each day, and this method has proved to be especially effective.
Applying one of the highest per capita testing worldwide, Azerbaijan recently launched a contact tracing app, which is considered to be a vital precondition for re-opening the economy.
In addition to over 20 state owned hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, four modular hospitals were opened after the outbreak. The plan in the coming months is to build and commission two further modular hospitals at the government expense, as well as four with private funding.
To meet increasing internal demand for personal protective equipment, a face mask factory and protective coverall plant opened in Azerbaijan in April enabling plentiful supply.
While in many other countries patients in serious or steady condition have been treated at home, in Azerbaijan all patients with positive test results are immediately being placed in the hospitals. This together with other measures helps the country to keep the number of deaths and infections relatively low, while at least three of its five neighbours report higher per capita COVID-19 cases.
Since the start of the outbreak, our country has been cooperating with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and a delegation from the organisation visited Azerbaijan on 9-13 March, praising how well- prepared the country’s healthcare system was. In a letter sent to President of Azerbaijan on 23 March, the WHO Chief called the measures taken in the country “exemplary.”
Alleviating socio-economic impacts of pandemic
So far, more than AZN 3.5 billion had been allocated for the purpose of maintaining economic stability, and the wellbeing of the population during the pandemic.
In March, the Coronavirus Response Fund was established upon the Decree of the President to provide financial assistance to the country’s response measures. The head of state allocated 20 million manats from the President’s Contingency Fund, as well as donating his annual salary.
More than 15,000 Azerbaijani citizens have been evacuated from various countries by charter flights organised at the expense of the state. The government has also been providing financial support for its vulnerable citizens stuck abroad amid the pandemic. Azerbaijan is one of a few countries that place those travelling from abroad in quarantine for up to 14 days, again at the expense of the government.
It should also be mentioned that Azerbaijan has also been trying to moderate the repercussions of the sharp decrease in global oil prices, while taking enormous measures to protect public health.
Mobilising global solidarity
While restructuring its healthcare system in the shortest possible time and mitigating the socio-economic impacts of pandemic, Azerbaijan has also been successfully pioneering global solidarity in fight against COVID-19.
To stress the necessity of implementing an effective global response to COVID-19, Azerbaijan held its first-ever virtual summit of Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) as its current Chair, and initiated the virtual emergency Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States in April and May. On behalf of the NAM countries, Azerbaijan also recently put forward an initiative to convene the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on fighting COVID-19, which has been overwhelmingly supported by 130 member states.
Our country allocated about US$10 million to the WHO, with the objective to help those in need in Africa, Asia and Latin America, andhas also so far rendered bilateral humanitarian assistance to 29 countries.
Azerbaijan’s early restriction measures meant there was a low number of infections and fatalities, which enabled the economy to re-open from mid-May. However, the situation in the country is kept under constant review, and some measures are now being re-instated to control a second wave of infection.
- President Aliyev claps for healthcare workers
- President Aliyev during an online summit of NAM countries
- The newly inaugurated Deniz Mall in Baku City
Photographs courtesy of the Embassy of Azerbaijan