Hunt for the “maskless,” opening a new shopping center – how Azerbaijan is coping with the second wave of coronavirus
The second wave of COVID-19 continues to spread in Azerbaijan. It began in early May and grew more intense after the quarantine regime was eased and most restrictions were lifted. For several days in a row, the number of new infections has exceed 100, or even 200 people.
Official data from June 2 states that the total number of people infected in the country had reached 5,935, 71 of whom died, and 3,554 have already recovered. More than 2,000 people are in the hospital, and 14 of them are connected to a ventilator.
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But this has had practically no effect on daily life in the country. Although the quarantine regime has been extended until June 15, all cafes, restaurants, shops, institutions and organizations have already started working again, and a new shopping center has even opened. Movie theaters, entertainment centers and gyms remain closed.
On the other hand, the country made wearing masks in public mandatory, and starting from June 3, the police began to catch intruders. Within the first two hours of the raid, 10 people were fined and several more received a warning. The fine is 50 manat [about $30].
Masks are required in almost all enclosed spaces, in public transport, and also at bus stops and open spaces where it is difficult to keep a distance (for example, in a line in front of ATMs or shops).
But the population is still reluctant to comply with these rules, especially because the summer heat has already begun. Most carry masks in their bag/pocket, or wear them lowered to the chin and only pull them on when they see policeman on the horizon.
Surveys show that overall, residents of Azerbaijan are not particularly afraid of the virus, and see the quarantine as a drawn-out, but temporary inconvenience.
Some comments from social media:
“It’s hard enough to breathe in the Baku metro without a mask, there’s practically no ventilation. And wearing one, you might just suffocate.”
“Our people don’t like to abide by the laws! Whatever they are! No one likes them!”
“It’s a bad situation. On the one hand, people have gone to extremes because of prohibitions, unemployment, injustice and other negative things. On the other hand, the regulations passed down by the authorities are contradictory, untimely or too late, which means that the authorities are unable to cope and cannot control the situation.”
The authorities themselves say that although the situation is complicated, everything is under control. And pro-government media sources continue to publish letters addressed to President Ilham Aliyev in which citizens are thanking him for successfully fighting the virus.
At the same time, Azerbaijan continues to gradually accept more and more of its citizens home from abroad. In particular, people stuck on the Russian-Azerbaijani border in Dagestan. On June 2, 120 of them were able to return to their homeland, but there are still about 600 people who are living in tents and complain about difficult conditions.
Due to the extended quarantine, state borders will remain closed until at least June 15th. But people already know that as soon as they open, it will be possible to fly from Azerbaijan to Turkey, Montenegro and Budapest, as these countries plan to start scheduling flights to many countries in June, including Azerbaijan.