Chairman of The Association of Organic Producers and Exporters of Azerbaijan
The World is still fighting with COVID-19 since December 2019. Due to the last statistic data, more than 3 million people have already been infected and over 200 thousands of infected people died so far. As you see, we are experiencing such high numbers within just a tiny period of time such 5 months.
The pandemic has kind of tested the World. Now some strong looking governments will be remembered with their weak sides, while some other weak considered governments will be remembered in an opposite way. Even the USA, everlasting “superpower” and savior of the World, as shown in the Hollywood movies, is currently helpless in front of the pandemic. Although the Global Medicine was so proud to be able to cure even the deadliest diseases, it declared it’s disability to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, we have all experienced the war-free World, where the terroristic actions are stopped, crimes are decreased. Even the migration process that continues for thousands of years so far, is stopped as well.
Megacities started to get empty day-by-day and even some wild animals started to appear in the streets. The leaders of countries started to warn their people about the “Armageddon scenarios” and massive death cases, instead of trying to keep them calm. Such a never-seen paradox?!
Even the strategic allies closed their borders to each other. A lot of people became unable to visit their families, relatives, close friends and etc. The economic relations collapsed and started to fluctuate so dramatically that even the biggest Think-tank organisations could not predict the upcoming events and it’s possible impacts. Oil prices went down dramatically.
In spite of the world people were wishing to switch to the 5G, now some considerable part of them started to blame 5G on the pandemic issues. Even some movements to ban 5G stared to emerge. In short, almost everything started to deviate from it’s “tradition”.
We can prolong the list of examples shown above, but that is not our main objective here in this statement. The main thing we all have to consentrate on is to save the humankind from this pandemic as soon as possible, help all the countries to stand on their own feet again and be prepared to the upcoming New World, which we are all going to live in just after the pandemic is banished from the World.
There are 232 accepted countries and administrative units in the World. The overall global population is like 7.8 billions. All these 232 countries and their populations showed up themselves in a different way in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to talk about Azerbaijan, one of the 3 least damaged countries by the pandemic due to the preventive measures taken by the government.
The first infection case in Azerbaijan was registered in 28th of February in 2020. 1600 infection and 20 death cases were confirmed so far. Luckily, 907 of the infected has been cured and sent back to their homes. 591 patients are still being treated in the special hospitals.
Azerbaijan is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia and Turkey to the west and Iran to the south. It has a surface area of 86,600 km2 and a population of 10.1 millions. It is officially in a war with it’s western neighbour Armenia since 1988 and 20% of it’s lands are occupied by Armenian forces. We have over a million refugees and IDPs due to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
First, I want to mention that, Azerbaijan is the country that has economic and trade ties with a vast majority of the World. Furthermore, it has a close ties with China as well, which is the start point of the pandemic. Additionally, Azerbaijan is sharing the borders with Iran, which is one of the most damaged countries with high infection and death numbers.
People were still crossing the borders during the early stages of the pandemic struck Iran. Azerbaijani citizens can go to Iran with no visa needed, and iranians can come to Azerbaijan with extra simplified visa requirements. And Iran has its land trade connections with it’s main trade partner Russia mostly over Azerbaijan’s ground. And the most virus struck country – Italy, is the biggest trade partner of Azerbaijan. And Turkey is kind of a second homeland for azerbaijanis.
To sum up, Azerbaijan is located in a such strategic place that some very important roads and lines from the north to the south, and from the east to the west are crossing each other on Azerbaijan’s mainland. All these listed fact are showing that Azerbaijan is in a risky location to be easily struck by the virus pandemic.
It would be inevitable to be one of the most suffered countries if preventive measures would not be taken in time and so accurately. But we could say that, Azerbaijan is leaving the fight against the pandemic with the flawless victory. First, Azerbaijan closed it’s borders with all countries. Then flights first restricted, then totally banned. All the Azerbaijani citizens currently being in foreign countries brought back to Azerbaijan with charter flights organized by government.
All the returning citizens have been sent to the quarantine places supplied by all the necessary medical personnel and equipments. Countrywide quarantine rules applied gradually, then it is shifted to the Special Quarantine regime from April 5 to April 20. Then the Special Quarantine regime was extended until May 4.
Except for pharmacies and grocery stores, all facilities across the country, have stopped their operations. Employees of all governmental and non-governmental organizations were given a paid leave, and all the organised events were cancelled.
The people of the country were urged to stay at home, and they chose to stay at home, standing by the state in the fight against this virus!
During this time, doctors fought the virus in hospitals almost without a break by not going home at all. Azerbaijani people appreciate their services and hopefully will never forget this favour.
Police officers were on duty 24 hours a day in a reinforced regime. They served the people with patience and courtesy while making sure the people are abiding by the quarantine.
Azerbaijani agrarian businessmen and farmers were more active during the pandemic, trying to increase their productivity. The state, in turn, allocated 30 million manats (AZN – local currency)-18 million USD from the state budget for the further development of the agricultural sector and provided soft loans to farmers.
The entire population of the country was mobilized to fight this pandemic. Wealthy people came together in dedicated charity groups to provide food and medical supplies to the elderly, the sick, and needy families. Students were supported too. Tuition fees for students from low-income families studying on a paid basis were paid by the state.
The statesmen could manage the assesment of the whole process correctly took the preventive measures just as it needed to be. The first thing was done is to establish the Operational Headquarters by the order of the President itself, ruled by the Prime Minister to centralize all the preventive measures to fight the pandemic. The whole process was controlled by this organisation.
2.5 billion manats-1.5 billion USD was allocated from the budget to provide the state support to both the low-income population and smalland medium businesses affected by the pandemic.
The salaries of all medical and social service workers have been increased 2-5 times for the pandemic period. In addition, “The Support for the Fight Against Coronavirus” foundation was established by the order of the President.
The President and the First Vice-President both contributed their annual salaries to this foundation. After that, people from the all categories of the country’s population donated various amounts voluntarily. More than 120 million manats-71 million USD was collected in a considerably short time.
Agile decisions were made to bring up to 200 artificial respiration devices to the country over night and deficiencies in this area have been eliminated completely.
Medical mask plant established in a short period of time and it could achieve to fully supply the medical mask needs of the people by immediately starting to manufacture. Then alcoholic beverage factories started to produce antiseptic solutions in accordance with the order of the President and this deficiency was eliminated as well.
Completely new hospital with the capacity of serving to 600 patients at once started to offer a high quality service and completely directed for struggling with COVID-19 pandemic. Infected people stared to be cured in this ultraluxury hospital. And 6 more new module-typed hospitals were built additionally.
Along with all these financial support programs, social support measures were also taken. For example, prisoners over 65 years old were released by presidential amnesty.
Exceptionally, Azerbaijan is not limited the fight against the virus to only its own populaion at home. It sent medical supplies, foods and other necessities to several foreign countries. In order to show solidarity with the world in the fight against the pandemic, the Heydar Aliyev Center, one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in Baku and the world, was illuminated with the flags of the countries most affected by the pandemic.
Although Azerbaijan is located in a high-risk geographical area, it has close relations with the countries most suffered from the pandemic and some other risks being still in place, it has managed to recover from the pandemic with relatively little damage as a result of the measures taken right on time.
And it is already clear that it will not be possible for the world to come back to its pre-pandemic period. The world will be a “New World” and we will be the citizens of that “New World”. I believe that Azerbaijan is completely ready for that. So see you in the New World!