Online coffee hours, domino tournaments in the park - life in Abkhazia during coronavirus
Abkhazia has been living in a state of emergency since March 28, which, like everywhere else, means isolation – leaving home only when absolutely necessary.
Three people have gotten ill, but people are not particularly scared, and many do not intend to stay home. But there are also those who launched karate and chess tournaments online, and started ballet classes in Zoom. And musicians have recorded the first Abkhaz song dedicated to the coronavirus (video at the end of this article).
In an attempt to force the population to self-isolate, authorities have been handing out fines to violators since April 11, which range from 3 to 20 thousand rubles [$25 to $300].
More than two people are prohibited from going out together to the park or seaside if they are not members of the same family. You are prohibited from leaving the house without a specific goal. You can go to or from work, but only one person is permitted to be at the office at a time.
However, judging by what is happening on the streets of Sukhum, people are neither afraid of either the virus nor a fine.
Going out on a walk or to church
There are domino players sitting at the tables in Brekhalovka Park from early morning. And those who are left without work during the quarantine can be seen strolling along the seaside.
Religious rituals are also prohibited in Abkhazia. But no one is complying. On Palm Sunday, April 12, people crowded into the Sukhum Cathedral and, as tradition dictates, took communion from a shared cup and spoon.
Nevertheless, the operational headquarters for countering the spread of coronavirus infection are sure that the prohibitions have been effective and helpful, at least for now, in avoiding a mass outbreak.
“We are the last stop on most public transportation. We have no ports, airports or train stations. The population density is small, therefore, the incidence rate is low. But the restrictions are also working. People have stopped kissing each other on the cheek when they meet and have been keeping a safe distance while communicating. Despite the fact that there are many violators, we managed to reach a large number of people,” said MP Alkhas Dzhindzholiya, a member of the operational headquarters.
Coffee meetings online
There are also those who have completely moved their lives online and are actively working to popularize self-isolation.
Well-known doll maker Asida Akhuba is holding group live video chats where she drinks coffee and reflects on the life, work and future of the homeland. She is also learning new skills.
“I took up English, am watching various theater performances, learning about anatomy, and in the meantime I sew masks. And I’m making brooches that I can give to my friends when the quarantine is over,” says Akhuba.
The President of the Chess Federation of Abkhazia, Konstantin Tuzhba, organized an online tournament on chess.com. He also made a profile for the Chess Federation of Abkhazia club on the same site. Chess players from all around Abkhazia joined him.
Now they meet on the site every day, which is much more frequently than they did before quarantine.
In Abkhazia, not only schools, but also sports and exercise classes were shut down. In order to keep his students in shape, trainer and president of the Fudokan Karate Federation of Abkhazia Sergey Demyanov decided there would be no interruption to normal training.
He records a set of exercises, and then opens access to them for his students.
Sergey also started the first online tournament in Abkhazia in karate kata and general physical training. The tournament is held in a WhatsApp group.
“Athletes are filming their performances of the kata and sending them to the group,” says Sergey. “And the five judges review and rate them.”
The children’s dance studio Amzacha teaches 70 different children.
The dance collective, as well as all exercise classes and schools, has been subject to quarantine restrictions since March 19. The head of the studio, Olga Denisova, switched to distance choreography and had to start from zero when figuring out how to make the platform suit her needs.
“Our classes are held in Zoom. There are, of course, problems: sometimes the sound from the video lags, then the picture just cuts out periodically. But we are in a state of emergency,” says Olga.
And musician and recording director Abzagu Marykhuba launched a series of joint projects from isolation with Abkhaz performers on Facebook. He and Slavik Amichba recorded the first Abkhaz song dedicated to the coronavirus.