On March 16 the Armenian government declared a state of emergency which has already been prolonged till June 13. Until recently people were not allowed to leave their houses without….

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Azerbaijan when the first case was identified in February 2020. Azerbaijan had not declared a state of emergency by the end of March, but as of March 20th, has only adopted special quarantine measures. These measures forbid people older than 65 years to leave their….

Due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, on March 16 the Interagency Coordinating Council of Georgia issued a recommendation that people over 60 should not go….

Author: Arpi Bekaryan

On March 16 the Armenian government declared a state of emergency which has already been prolonged till June 13. Until recently people were not allowed to leave their houses without a passport and signed paper. Restrictions are slowly being lifted since May 4 when outdoor cafes and restaurants opened and citizens of Armenia were allowed to leave the house without an identification card or information paper.

Armenia is now leading in numbers of COVID 19 cases within the South Caucasus. The country is breaking its own records regarding infection spread: over 150-350 new cases are being reported each day. The daily death rate has already surpassed 60.

Since the virus appeared to be a greater threat to elderly people, younger citizens were advised not to visit markets and supermarkets from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. in the mornings, so that elderly people could do their grocery shopping at those hours. Hundreds of thousands of elderly Armenian citizens, including Spartak Barseghyan and Susanna Barseghyans, have been self-isolating for a long time and going out for grocery shopping only in the mornings.

Spartak Barseghyan, 70, says he wears a mask in the supermarket if they give him one at the entrance; usually he just brings hand sanitizer with him, cleaning his hands once he leaves the market and again in his house.

“He is an anarchist” – jokes Susanna Barseghyan, 69,

The couple’s life has changed in many ways since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The Barseghyans have been married for 50 years. They have 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Despite the fact that they have been living alone for several years already, Susanna Barseghyan recalls that the house has always been full. But the pandemic brought new rules to their lifestyle. Keeping distance and not visiting each other became the “new normal”. While not long ago children and grandchildren would show their love and care by visiting them, now caring is about keeping a distance and not paying visits.

It was in this odd situation that the couple was left alone for such a long period for the first time in 50 years. Their everyday routine started circling around each other for days and then for weeks. Susanna and Spartak remember their everyday fights before the quarantine and laugh together. Both their children and grandchildren recall them fighting and mocking each other 24/7 a day.

“We don’t fight now, seriously, I don’t know how, but we don’t”, says Susanna. They look at each other and smile. “I am cooking for him, cleaning. And he is making coffee for me in the mornings. He wouldn’t see all my efforts before, he was going to work and coming back in the evening, thinking I was just sleeping the whole day. Women should thank this corona”.

Susanna Barseghyan worked as a school chemistry teacher for more than 30 years. She stopped her work due to reaching pension age in July. She says being away from the school, from children, and from her friends has been very difficult for her, so she was already feeling anxious after quitting her favorite job, after dozens of years working in the school. While the other teachers hold online classes with pupils, Susanna entertains herself looking at relatives’ and friends’ photos and posts on social media pages, and watching news and Armenian soap operas.

Spartak Barseghyan works in the district municipality and now goes to work once in several days. “They don’t tell me to go. It’s my own decision, but I have to go to collect the phone numbers, the data that they bring. Besides I see my coworkers from time to time, it makes me happy”. Barseghyan says they don’t let anyone enter the office without masks, “Someone came inside once and coughed in the room, I told him to go away. He was insisting that he is not sick. But how can one be sure? You can get infected even just entering the supermarket”. Barseghyan says he also tries to keep his distance from people while walking in the street.

Susanna Barseghyan, who has diabetes and is thus in a high-risk group, says that she is not afraid of the virus, “I don’t get infected that easily, I even have seasonal flu very rarely, I don’t remember last time I had flu”. Spartak Barseghyan doesn’t think that fear helps anything, “If [the virus] catches you, what can you do? I can just say “hi” to my neighbor in the corridor and get infected. The infection can even come with a wind”.

The couple sits on the little balcony of their 9th floor apartment to breathe some air and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Author: Ismi Aghayev (Shahzade)

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Azerbaijan when the first case was identified in February 2020. Azerbaijan had not declared a state of emergency by the end of March, but as of March 20th, has only adopted special quarantine measures. These measures forbid people older than 65 years to leave their homes and groups larger than 10 people are not allowed to meet in public places. Furthermore, travel restrictions apply within the country, especially the capital, Baku. Only essential shops are allowed to open, and restaurants have limited opening hours. Since April 5th the Azerbaijani government has increased restrictions. Azerbaijanis can now leave their homes only after receiving permission by SMS from the polity, or if they have a special certificate of employment. In addition to the police, the army actively enforces these rules.

Azerbaijan adopted some of the strictest measures in the South Caucasus as its government tried to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has already infected over 1,500 people in the country. Under the new restrictions, no one over the age of 65 can leave their house for any reason until April 20. All other citizens are required to obtain permission from the police to leave their residences, and outings are limited to emergencies or those employed in a special set of jobs. All these measures applied to the entire population of the country. However, restrictions focused on people over the age of 60 as their fight to stay healthy during the pandemic is more difficult and almost impossible. Given that they have a social life, worries and needs, their lifestyle and feelings and difficulties during the numerous days of isolation are important and worthy of attention from all of us.

Yusifova Nishangul, 71, is a pensioner and displaced person from Nagorno Karabakh. She was involved in trade from the age of 20 to 62. She says in a way the quarantine period was somehow even more difficult then leaving the country and becoming a refugee:

“Though we had to leave our country and come here, I was still in society, I was in contact with people. Now I can’t go to my brother’s or sister’s house, I can’t go to my children’s house, I can’t see my grandchildren. This two-month quarantine is like 27 years for me”.

Yusifova says her children and grandchildren are doing the shopping for them. She doesn’t leave the house yet even for the market or the yard.

“It’s not about eating and drinking, it’s about breathing air in this life. I haven’t been able to breathe for two months. What can you breathe inside the house?” she says.

Yusifova is sure that for spiritual health, one has to be among people. “It is like they put us all in cages and locked us up. At this age, it’s more difficult. If we were young at least, we would read a book, we would do something”.

Yusifova’s husband is 79 years old, he was still working when the quarantine started and had to take time off and self-isolate. The couple has been married for 54 years. Yusifova reflects that both of them used to go to work in the mornings and come back late in the evening. They wouldn’t see each other the whole day.

“These two months were equal to my 54 years (she laughs). We had so many arguments with my husband in this period (she smiles). What can we do now besides arguing? We are not going to make love at this age as if we have never made love. But the truth is, we got married without love”

Yusifova uses her home phone and WhatsApp to connect to the world. She proudly explains how easily she uses new technologies. “I go to the gallery and look at the photos. I keep in touch with my grandchildren via WhatsApp. One was in London, one was in America, one was in Turkey, he had just returned from there, and this one is like in the sky, walking for himself (she laughs for a long time)”.

Yusifova’s two children are also abroad. “There is a lot of unpleasant news coming from abroad during these days, I watch all of them, I listen to all of them and it frightens me”. She also fears for her children who are in the country and have to go out during the day: “Where this virus came from?!”

“Death is for everyone!”, Yusifova says “Let it be far from the young, let death come to the old.” However, she also worries about dying during the pandemic: “Imagine if something happened to me suddenly, if my loved ones and relatives could not attend my funeral. If it ended by burying me in a dug well, then where did the 71 years of my life go? When you die, you should die worthy, and they should take you and bury you well”, she says.

Yusifova says besides her children and grandchildren she has only one brother left from her relatives, who is a doctor. “I only keep in touch with him. He is concerned about my health. I tell him I’m fine, even if I’m in a bad mood or not in good health. Because in this quarantine we are far from each other, we are far away, I do not want him to be sad. How can a person live without meeting and keeping in touch with his family, children, and brother?”

Yusifova compares the quarantine to an administrative sentence by a court decision. “Not conditionally, yes, administrative!”, she says “Therefore, the situation is like this, God bless us all.”

Author:  Mariam Pesvianidze

Due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, on March 16 the Interagency Coordinating Council of Georgia issued a recommendation that people over 60 should not go outside unnecessarily. According to world COVID-19 statistics, the risk of mortality is especially high within this age category. On March 18, authorities completely closed the borders for foreign citizens, and on March 21, a state of emergency was announced in the country. 10 days later a curfew was imposed (from 21:00 to 6:00) and it was forbidden to gather in a group larger than 3 in public places. For almost 2 months, Georgian citizens were living under a regime of partial or complete self-isolation. Elderly people have had the most difficult time.

Zurab Beridze is 72 years old. Since March 18, he has been at home isolating with his wife Shorena. Their children insisted that their parents do not leave the home and follow all recommended precautions. Every few days they bring a bag of food and medicine to leave under their door and take away the accumulated garbage.

“As a scientist, I spent most of my life in my office. Therefore, for me a long stay in one place is not a problem. But at the same time, I feel tired, tired of having to keep distance. I would like to go outside, to invite someone to visit me or to go to visit my friends. Sit together at a table, drink a glass, hug.” says Zurab.

The days have kept their routine, in the morning he and his wife have breakfast and drink tea, in the afternoon Zurab sometimes watches TV: “Mostly I watch news programs and nothing more. In general, I don’t want to watch the news at all. Probably about 70% of the news is related to the theme of coronavirus and it is very tiresome.” Therefore, Zurab’s preference is to read historical books and listen to Georgian poetry, he especially loves Vazha Pshavela, Ilya Chavchavadze, Galaktion Tabidze. And so Zurab can spend several hours listening to poetry.

For almost two months, he and Shorena did not see other people at a closer distance than their children, who greeted them at a distance of 2 meters without entering the apartment. Several times Zurab called his friends from Moscow, Batumi, and Tbilisi on Skype: “But of course this is not the case. We seem to be together, but not really.” Nevertheless, Zurab is trying to pay attention to good news, such as the fact that the epidemic in Georgia and around the world is on the decline.

“In general, I look at the COVID-19 pandemic philosophically. There were many epidemics in the world, and much worse than the current one. This is not the first such situation. Victims were [numerous] then, but humanity survived. This is despite the fact that before medicine was developed much worse than it is now” – says Zurab.

An important part of their daily routine was the time spent on their balcony – the only opportunity to breathe fresh air and look at the outside world. Zurab and Shorena live on the 8th floor of a flat in the Saburtalo district. From their balcony you can clearly see the Tbilisi TV tower. Usually they put a couple of chairs there, sit and look around, discuss what they read and reflect on what will happen next. “When quarantine ends, the first thing I’ll do is go for a walk and I will visit my grandchildren,” Zurab says. So our interview ends, which of course I conduct with Zurab by phone.