Navigation
Download the AMN app for your mobile device today - FREE!
  •  

COVID-19: Member of Putin’s staff infected; cases in Iran top 32,000

Meeting with command staff of military districts and Northern Fleet (Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The global death toll from the coronavirus has exceeded 24,000 with more than 550,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.

Russia

The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.

The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.

- ADVERTISEMENT -

As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Three deaths have also been reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.

“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.

He gave no further details.

As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.

Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.

In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.

The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.

In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.

The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.

The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.

Roskomnadzor said it filed a request with the U.S. company on March 26, asking for the post to be taken down.

According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.

Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.

Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.

Iran

Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.

The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.

Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.

“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei told state TV.

President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.

Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.

State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.

Georgia

Georgia’s government has canceled a $1.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.

The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.

Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.

Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.

In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.

Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.

She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.

“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”

Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.

Hungary

Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.

In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.

He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.

Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

Ten infected people have died.

Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.

The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.

Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.

Uzbekistan

In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.

As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.

Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.

All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.

Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.

Kyrgyzstan

Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.

Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.

Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.