Azerbaijan confirms first coronavirus case

The crisis center established at the Cabinet of Ministers has confirmed the infection.

An Iraqi medical staff member checks a passenger’s temperature, amid the new coronavirus outbreak, upon his arrival to Shalamcha Border Crossing between Iraq and Iran, February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

On Friday, Baku confirmed Azerbaijan's first case of coronavirus after a Russian citizen traveling from Iran has tested positive for the illness.

The crisis center established at the Cabinet of Ministers has confirmed the infection.

“While entering Azerbaijan from the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was been diagnosed with the symptoms and placed in the hospital's infectious diseases ward . After medical procedures, he tested positive for the coronavirus,” state news agency Azertaj reported, adding that, the patient's status is stable.

So far, 200 people coming from Iran have been put under quarantine. 91 of them have been hospitalized in the southern province of Jalilabad. Until today, Azerbaijani authorities had denied that coronavirus has reached the country.

“Let me swear that the country is stable and there is no coronavirus,” chief epidemiologist Ibadulla Agayev said on 25 February.

A day later, on 26 February, Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told a news conference that a man arriving in Georgia from Iran via Azerbaijan has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Azerbaijan State Customs Committee confirmed the case, releasing a video of the Georgian national being checked at the Astara border with Iran. The committee added that citizens who were in contact with that person were also tracked. The official report also states that the Georgian national may have had symptoms of the disease within 10 to 14 hours from the Astara border line with Iran to the Georgian-Azerbaijan border.

Medical professor Adil Geybulla believes that Azerbaijan should stop any kind of exchange with Iran, including with the countries where the virus is spreading, and take all necessary steps to prevent the infection.

Doctor Vasif Ismail believes that the Azerbaijani government is not ready to fight coronavirus in the country.

“We are known for being unprepared on such matters,” Ismail said, calling the entire disaster “unbelievable."

On social networks, videos of Azerbaijani citizens traveling from Iran showing them quarantined in desolate conditions have gone viral.

“We have left the customs service in Astara. We are coming from Iran. They say that we have to pass a test, but there are no conditions for that. They are not even following the hygienic rules in the hospital. There is no soap and water here. Look, this is how they are fighting with coronavirus,” an unnamed man says behind the camera while showing the situation at the Astara hospital.

On 27 February, the head of the Astara Hospital was fired. The hospital, which is located near the southern border, will be used for quarantines.

Today, a video that has gone viral on social media showed that the hygienic situation has not changed.

“We are in the same situation. We are staying here together with Astara's own sick people. Those who has not caught coronavirus might be infected here,” a woman says alarmed in the video.

Although many countries including Armenia and Turkey have shut borders with Iran, Azerbaijan has not yet made such a decision.

The Iranian health ministry has warned that the number of the cases would continue to rise in the coming days. It reported 388 confirmed cases and 34 deaths on Friday. Iran has been the source of dozens cases in neighboring countries including Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Pakistan.

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