Sun, 31 May 2020

The global death toll has surpassed 37,000 with over 790,000 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

Russian lawmakers have given their initial approval for legislation that allows Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to declare a state of emergency as the country recorded a 27 percent jump in confirmed coronavirus cases, its biggest single-day increase so far.

The bill, approved by parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, on March 31, allows the government to declare an emergency situation across the country and to establish mandatory rules of conduct during a state of emergency.

It also approved a penalty of up to five years in prison for those who 'knowingly' disseminate false information during 'natural and man-made emergencies' and up to seven years in prison for breaking hygiene and sanitation regulations such as quarantine

The legislation comes as health officials released figures showing the number of coronavirus cases had jumped by 500 from the previous day to 2,337. It was the seventh consecutive day that the number has increased.

The federal coronavirus task force said on March 31 that the death toll had risen overnight by eight to stand at 17. Critics and even ordinary Russians have voiced skepticism about the accuracy of official figures and have raised questions about the state's testing for the virus.

Moscow all but confined its 12 million residents to their homes on March 30, and Mishustin asked regional governors during an emergency meeting to mirror that move.

SEE ALSO: Forced Into Lockdown, Muscovites Question The State's Shifting Coronavirus Response

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, and more than a dozen other regions from the westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad to the Arctic region of Murmansk and Tatarstan on the Volga River, have heeded the call and followed Moscow's example by introducing compulsory self-isolation regimes.

President Vladimir Putin has called Moscow's lockdown 'necessary and justified.' He had previously called for the week between March 28 and April 5 to be a nonworking week -- essentially a weeklong break from work to 'prevent the threat of the quick spread of the illness.'

The government also closed all of the country's borders as of March 30, allowing only Russian diplomats, freight, and other necessary vehicles and people to enter.

Romania

Romania's government has placed the northeastern town of Suceava and eight surrounding villages under quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with more than a quarter of all cases in the country identified in the region.

Interior Minister Marcel Vela announced the measure, known as Military Order No. 6, late on March 30. All roads and highways into Suceava have been blocked by police and the army, with access allowed only for trucks carrying supplies.

EU member Romania, which has recorded 2,109 coronavirus infections and 65 deaths, declared a state of emergency on March 16.

Live Map: The Spread Of The Coronavirus

Updated constantly with the latest figures

With a population of just over 100,000, Suceava has 593 cases and one-third of all fatalities. More than half of the country's 285 infected doctors, nurses, and other medical staff were in Suceava, officials said.

Health Minister Nelu Tataru said the spread was caused by poor management at the local hospital, where infected medical personnel was allowed to mingle with healthy colleagues, and people not respecting self-isolation rules.

The quarantine will last until mid-April at the end of the 30-day emergency period. Movements in the rest of the country have been restricted for almost a week.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria will have to raise 4.2 billion levs ($2.36 billion) in additional debt this year to bridge a fiscal gap caused by additional aid to be given to businesses and workers hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on March 31.

Goranov also slashed the 2020 outlook to a 3 percent contraction of the Bulgarian economy compared to previous estimates of 3.3 percent growth.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's center-right government revised its fiscal plans late on March 30 to run a deficit of 2.9 percent of economic output this year and raised the ceiling on new debt it can raise to 10 billion levs ($5.65 billion) due to the pandemic.

'All these measures have one and only goal: to guarantee that the state has enough liquidity and enough possibility to maintain its main functions,' Goranov told reporters.

The changes are pending parliamentary approval.

Bulgaria is the poorest but also least indebted European Union member state.

Bulgaria has closed schools, restaurants and bars, restricted intercity travel and access to parks, and banned all domestic and foreign holidays and trips until April 13 to contain the spread of the outbreak that has infected 379 people and killed eight so far.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan

Kazakhstan has officially registered its second coronavirus-related death after a 50-year-old man died while in hospital.

Saule Qisyqova, the head of the Health Department in the capital, Nur-Sultan, told reporters that a 50-year-old man, who had been diagnosed with coronavirus and hospitalized 10 days earlier, died on March 31.

That follows the March 26 death of a 65-year-old woman in the central Aqmola region that surrounds Nur-Sultan.

According to Kazakhstan's health officials, as of March 31 the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country is 325.

Why Numbers Don't Tell The Full Story

A daily compilation of global coronavirus cases by Johns Hopkins University is currently the most comprehensive in the world, but it relies on information provided by governments.

In many countries, there are restrictions on releasing such information or reasons why the full story might not want to be told.

The methodology, immediacy, transparency, and quality of this data can vary dramatically country by country.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, visits to relatives and friends and gatherings of more than three people in one place, excluding family members, have been banned in Bishkek, which was already under a state of emergency due to the pandemic.

In addition, drivers of private vehicles must prove that they are heading to work or returning home from work with papers issued by their employees as all 'unnecessary' use of vehicles in the capital has been banned.

The two southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad and several adjacent districts have also been under a state of emergency since last week.

The deputy chief of the coronavirus crisis center in Bishkek, Kasymbek Mambetov, said on March 31 that 13 more coronavirus cases were registered in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 107.

In another Central Asian nation, Uzbekistan, the number of officially confirmed coronavirus cases reached 158, including two deaths, as of March 31.

In two other Central Asian countries, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been reported so far. Both are tightly controlled.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian and Bulgarian services, Reuters, dii24.ro, and hotnews.ro

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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