Azerbaijan increases security, health screenings at border crossings to curb spread of COVID-19 as of late February. No cases confirmed.

Severity: Informational Alert

This alert began 27 Feb 2020 20:22 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Preventative Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide, particularly border crossings (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Increased security, health screenings at border crossings; some flight cancellations

Summary
Authorities in Azerbaijan have implemented a number of special security and health measures in an effort to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of late February. In response to instructions from the Cabinet of Ministers, strict health screenings are taking place at several of the nation's entry points. At Astara and Bilasuvar - Azerbaijan's two main land border crossings with Iran - the Ministry of Emergency Situations has set up tents to serve as temporary clinics for triaging all persons entering from Iran. Officials at Baku's Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD), on the other hand, are performing enhanced health screening for all passengers arriving from China, especially those originating from locations within the epidemic zone. Any individuals exhibiting disease symptoms are being sent to designated hospitals for more in-depth examination and medical observation; such persons may be subject to mandatory quarantine, if the case warrants. Border guards at Astara and Bilasuvar have also initiated special procedures to ensure that freights entering from Iran have been disinfected and meet sanitation standards.

In addition to directly health-related measures, the government in Baku has also launched a nationwide awareness campaign in an effort to counter the potential impact of public fear over the disease. Additionally, preliminary information suggests that law enforcement agencies are actively monitoring and investigating individuals who have allegedly spread disinformation concerning the disease; it remains unclear to what extent authorities may be willing to prosecute such cases.

On Feb. 27, Turkish Airlines (TK) announced that it was temporarily suspending flights to Azerbaijan's Naxcivan region due to concerns over COVID-19; the carrier's flights to the cities of Baku and Ganja continue to operate, however. Airline officials have not given any estimate as to when flights to Naxcivan may resume. Additionally, on Feb. 24, Turkey closed its land border crossing with Naxcivan citing increasing COVID-19 activity in the region generally, but reopened it 24 hours later at the order of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Background and Analysis
According to sources within the Ministry of Health, although there have as yet been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Azerbaijan, 186 persons representing suspected cases of the disease were under medical observation, as of Feb. 27, with the overwhelming majority at hospitals in the Astara and Jalalabad districts on the border with Iran.

The government in Baku could alter its current precautionary posture and/or impose tighter restrictions in response to changes in disease activity in the region - especially in neighboring Iran which has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in recent days.

Advice
Follow all official immigration and health screening instructions. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, if arriving in Azerbaijan from either China or Iran. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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