(By Javanshir Feyziyev & Tahir Taghizade) : –
Recent coronavirus pandemic hammers home one simple truth: There can be situations where it is not the size or economic potential, but swift and timely handling of the crisis which matters most. In this sense, in spite of being a relatively small country, Azerbaijan’s fight with 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 the rapid and coordinated response mechanisms, Operational Headquarters under the Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers was established which also conducts daily live briefings with the participation of media to provide the population with up to date official information on the situation.
A special quarantine regime has been introduced in the country where except for the key sectors, operation of all public and private entities were suspended, all public events were postponed and land and air transport communications excluding international trade transportation have been temporarily adjourned. While staying at home, SMS-based permit system allowed people to implement their essential travels to groceries, pharmacies, doctors and funerals within two hours each day and this method has proven to be especially effective.
Applying one of the highest per capita testing worldwide, very recently Azerbaijan has also launched a contact tracing app which is considered a vital precondition for re-opening the economy.
In addition to over 20 state owned hospitals serving COVID-19 patients, four modular hospitals were opened after the outbreak. The plan is to build and commission two more modular hospitals at the government expense as well as four with private funding in the coming months.
To meet the increasing internal demand for personal protective equipment, a face mask factory and protective cover all plant opened in Azerbaijan in April enabling plentiful supply.
While in many foreign countries patients in serious or steady condition are being treated at home, in Azerbaijan all patients with positive test result 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 on land neighbors report higher per capita COVID-19 cases.
Since the start of the outbreak, our country has been cooperating with the World Health Organization and a delegation from the organization visited Azerbaijan on March 9-13 hailing the country’s healthcare preparedness in the aftermath. 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 wellbeing of the population during the pandemic.
In March 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 donated his annual salary to the Fund.
More than 15,000 Azerbaijani citizens have been evacuated from various countries by charter flights organized at the expense of the state. The government has also been providing financial support for its vulnerable citizens stuck abroad amid pandemic. Azerbaijan is one of a few countries who place those travelling from abroad at the quarantine places for up to 14 days 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.
Mobilizing global solidarity
Restructuring its healthcare system in the shortest possible time, mitigating socio-economic impacts of pandemic, Azerbaijan, has also been successfully pioneering global solidarity in fight with COVID-19.
To stress the necessity of implementing an effective global response to COVID-19, Azerbaijan held first-ever virtual summit of Non-Alignment Movement as its current Chair and initiated the holding of virtual emergency Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States in May. Very recently, Azerbaijan, on behalf of the NAM countries, also put forward the initiative to convene UN General Assembly’s Special Session to this end.
Our country allocated about USD 10 million to the WHO especially with the objective to help needy population in Africa, Asia and Latin America and also so far rendered bilateral humanitarian assistance to 29 countries.
Although early restriction measures and thus low number of infections and fatalities enabled Azerbaijan to re-open the economy starting from mid-May, the situation in the country is kept under constant review and some measures are now re-instated to control the second wave of infection.
Views expressed are not of The London Post