Lockdown, texting with the police, gov’t aid to people, businesses – Azerbaijan and the coronavirus
Who will receive government help, what that help will be, and what the state requires of its citizens in return
Azerbaijanis can now only leave their homes after receiving permission by SMS from the police, or if they have a special certificate of employment. On April 5, the government imposed “strict limitations on the movement of citizens” in order to combat COVID-19.
The government has yet to declare a state of emergency, and these restrictions are officially called a “strict quarantine regime,” which brings into question the legality of some of the restrictions imposed.
Small and medium-sized businesses are suffering enormous losses, and the authorities promise to support the victims of the epidemic.
They also promise to pay around $112 each to 200 thousand registered unemployed people within the next two months.
Official data from the morning of April 5 states that there are 602 cases of Covid-19 infection reported in Azerbaijan. Seven have died, and 32 have recovered. Baku is still the epicenter of the infection in Azerbaijan, but there are reported cases in almost all other regions of the country.
Three reasons to leave home
The system works like this: before going out, you must text their identification number to a special phone number, indicating the reason why you are leaving home.
There are three options to choose from:
- to receive medical treatment;
- to buy medicine or groceries, or visit the bank or post office;
- to attend the funeral of a close relative.
You then receive an SMS in response giving permission to leave, which you can show to a police officer if you are stopped in the street.
After the first day, people are already more or less accustomed to the new system, and they say that the response is almost immediate.
But some complain that police officers are fining passersby for minute or far-fetched violations.
The restrictions also apply to the movement of cars, use of which is prohibited “without special need,” and all passengers must have received permission to leave the home.
Perplexed dog owners are confused about how to get permission to walk their dogs. Therefore, walking dogs is currently “illegal” in Azerbaijan, unless, for example, you are walking them to the grocery store.
People reacted to this new restriction with a mix of irony and indignation.
Some found this measure unreasonably harsh and accused the state of taking a totalitarian approach in an attempt to replenish the treasury with fines. “Congratulations, we will soon live in a dystopia,” they wrote on social networks.
Others, on the contrary, supported the new measure and said that it was necessary to force “less conscientious” residents of Azerbaijan to stay home, otherwise it will prove impossible to stop the spread of the virus.
Businessmen and unemployed people will receive compensation, but continue to pay bills
One of the main complaints citizens had against the authorities was that they stalled for a long time while preparing a support package for corporations and those who were left without as a direct result of the coronavirus situation.
The support package promises to compensate businesses who were forced to close due to the quarantine by paying half of the employees’ wages for a two-month period so that they can keep their staff.
Businessmen will also be given lines of credit, but the loan payments themselves will not be suspended. Neither will utility payments, and although a discount will be given, it is too small to be substantial.
As for the unemployed, they will be paid 190 manat [about $ 112] for a two-month period (the official cost of living). This program will support around 200 thousand people who will register as unemployed. You can register as unemployed on a special site.
The government will also help students from low-income families pay for their studies.
Economist Togrul Mashalli believes these measures are insufficient and will not provide real help to those suffering financially because of the quarantine regime.
As a part of the quarantine regime, the metro, parks, and squares are also closed, and most businesses and organizations have had to suspend operations. People over the age of 65 are generally prohibited from leaving the house.