Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Azerbaijan to lift many coronavirus-related business restrictions starting 0001 May 4. Special quarantine measure extended through May 31.

This alert affects Azerbaijan

This alert began 02 May 2020 20:36 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-related restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Starting 0001 May 4
  • Impact: Severe travel disruptions; residual business disruptions

Summary
The Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers issued a resolution on May 1 enabling many businesses, facilities, and public areas nationwide to reopen starting at 0001 May 4 following closures that 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 initially lifted restrictions on certain businesses effective April 27. 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 permits the following establishments and facilities to resume operating:

  • All shopping facilities (with the exception of malls and large shopping centers) in the cities of Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, as well as the general Absheron Penninsula region
  • All shopping and public catering establishments elsewhere in the country, including restaurants, cafes, and tea houses for on-site service
  • Parks and other public recreation areas, except in the cities of Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, as well as the general Absheron Penninsula region
  • Barber shops, beauty salons, and other businesses providing cosmetic services
  • Business-to-business services (e.g. consulting, legal and auditing services, etc.) which had been restricted under the special quarantine
  • Government social security ("DOST") service centers


The resolution also reestablishes freedom of private vehicular travel between cities and districts nationwide, with the exception of the cities of Ganja and Lankaran; intercity and interregional travel using public transport remains suspended, however. As of 0001 May 4, 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 nationwide, except in the cities of Baku, Sumqayit, Ganja, and Lankaran, as well as the general Absheron Penninsula region.

Despite the relaxation of many COVID-related business and movement restrictions, the new edict also extends Azerbaijan's existing special quarantine regimen through May 31, with all other preventative measures remaining in place. These include:

  • Residents are required to continue to stay at home except to perform essential tasks and travel to/from places of employment.*
  • Persons above the age of 65 are prohibited from leaving their homes, with government assistance available to seniors in this category who live alone.*
  • 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. Additional restrictions are likely in the coming days 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. 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.

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

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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