Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Azerbaijan to further ease COVID-19-related restrictions from 0001 May 18. Special quarantine measure maintained through May 31.

This alert affects Azerbaijan

This alert began 17 May 2020 12:31 GMT and is scheduled to expire 29 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19-related restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Starting 0001 May 18
  • Impact: Severe travel disruptions; residual business disruptions

Summary
The Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers issued a resolution on May 15, easing restrictions on business and public movements, especially in the cities of Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, and the general Absheron Penninsula region starting 0001 May 18. The restrictions had been implemented as part of the nation's effort to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The move comes after the government in Baku gradually lifted restrictions on certain businesses April 27, and May 4, mainly elsewhere in the country. However, generally stricter measures will remain in effect, probably through at least May 31, in certain major population centers where the potential for disease transmission is likely higher.

The new directive relaxes restrictions on establishments, facilities, and public movements in Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, as well as the general Absheron Penninsula region, which were already previously lifted in the rest of the country:

  • The government's special SMS-based system by which residents - including foreign nationals - must obtain permission from authorities to be outside their homes for specific essential needs will be deactivated.
  • Public catering establishments, including restaurants, cafes, and tea houses, will be permitted to open for on-site service between 0800-1800.
  • Parks and other public recreation areas, provided people do not congregate in groups of more than ten people.


The resolution also relaxes some nationwide restrictions. Museums and exhibition halls will be able to reopen. The ban on persons above the age of 65, leaving their homes, will also be lifted nationwide; however, the government recommends that these individuals continue to restrict all nonessential public movements.

Despite the relaxation of many COVID-19-related business and movement restrictions, Azerbaijan's existing special quarantine regimen will remain in effect through May 31, with all other preventative measures remaining in place nationwide. These include:

  • Residents are required to continue to stay at home except to perform essential tasks and travel to/from places of employment.*
  • All public intercity and interregional passenger transport is suspended.
  • Public gatherings of more than 10 persons are prohibited.
  • All schools, universities, and other educational institutions remain closed.
  • Employees of some government agencies have been placed on paid furlough, although specific affected organizations have not been announced.
  • Land and air borders remain closed to all passenger traffic, essentially halting all incoming and outgoing passenger traffic by land and air. Although authorities have not specifically addressed Caspian Sea borders, the Port of Baku's international passenger and ferry terminal has probably effectively shut down under other border closures and movement restrictions implemented earlier. International cargo transport remains unaffected. Foreign nationals whose visas were due to expire by April 30 and are unable to leave Azerbaijan may obtain a 30- or 60-day visa extension for fees of AZN 15 (USD 8.80) or AZN 30 (USD 17.60) respectively.


*Remains applicable primarily in Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, as well as the general Absheron Penninsula region.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has been tasked with enforcing the special quarantine regimen; violators may be subject to administrative penalties or criminal charges. All measures are subject to amendment a short notice depending on disease activity.

Background and Analysis
Azerbaijan's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The decision to ease the restrictions was made by the Cabinet of Ministers Task Force following epidemiological considerations, including the dynamics of the spread and geography of the disease. Should the number of COVID-19 cases significantly increase, relaxed restrictions may be reapplied. Likewise, a continued low number of cases may result in a further relaxation of restrictions.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

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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