Uzbek authorities are gradually lifting quarantine restrictions, despite new cases of COVID-19 infection. They decided to revive the economy before it is too late.
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The process of large-scale lifting of quarantine restrictions lasted almost for two months and started on May 13, after the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s briefing. Two days earlier, the country’s regions were divided into zones (‘red’, ‘yellow’, ‘green’) depending on the epidemiological situation.
The ‘green’ zone with no coronavirus cases includes most of Uzbekistan now. Parks, stadiums and museums are opened here; taxi services, hairdressing salons, hotels, craft workshops resumed their work: almost everything works, except for public transport.
The ‘yellow’ zone includes cities and villages with no confirmed cases of infection during the last 14 days. Here, it is recommended to follow the rules for social distance and self-isolation. This zone includes Tashkent.
In the ‘red’ zone with new confirmed infection cases strict rules for self-isolation and quarantine are imposed. As of June 4, 813 patients with coronavirus remained in Uzbekistan. 3,014 people completely recovered, 16 people died. New infection cases are mainly confirmed among Uzbeks evacuated from abroad.
Despite the country’s division into zones and quarantine extension until June 15, railway and air services between major cities resumed. To get on a plane or train, a certificate on the coronavirus absence (costing 224415 soms or $22) was previously required.
However, due to the economic conditions and a flurry of indignation of the population, the certificates for the movement between the regions were canceled.
According to the President Mirziyoyev, “We need to learn to live and work during pandemic, since the vaccine and the cure for the coronavirus have not yet been discovered”.
To revive the economy, about 70% of industrial enterprises resumed working, 178 thousand workers returned to their jobs.
According to the World Bank forecasts, the GDP growth rate in Uzbekistan will decline in 2020 from 5.6% to 1.6%. WB analysts believe that the republic at the stage of transition to a market economy is vulnerable to the upcoming global crisis.
The construction industry is at the forefront of the economy: it employs about 1.3 million people. Another driver of the economy is the textile industry. These two sectors will receive unprecedented benefits and financial support.
Reducing tax revenues, spending on countering the pandemic, supporting socially vulnerable segments of the population can lead to a budget deficit. Therefore, the authorities are in a hurry to resume private business to recover the part of the losses in budget revenues.
Why Wear Masks in Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan residents react to the ongoing quarantine lifting differently. The resident of the Chilonzor district of the capital Javokhir claims that coronavirus is a fiction created by authorities.
“Everything should have been opened long time ago; we stay in quarantine for more than two months now. There is no work, money is running out, and the state fines us for the absence of masks. I do not think they care about us by doing this. Is there a virus at all? I do not know anyone who was infected. It seems that they are simply making money off us,” Tashkent resident argues.
Svetlana, the resident of Mirabad district, complains that it is impossible to breathe in masks in such heat.
“Restrictions lifting is good, of course. There is no air humidity here, where the virus could live for a long time, why wear masks outdoors? I do not understand. It is enough to keep distance from others. I am completely suffocating in such heat; nevertheless I need to go out for food!” Tashkent resident says.
One of the capital’s doctors anonymously shared his opinion on the gradual lifting of quarantine measures.
“Of course, there is pandemic. However, the measures taken by the state are abnormal, created to replenish the budget. The lifting is reasonably correct, since people are already tired. However, it was necessary to open everything at once, not just some services and business, because the distance between people is still not followed,” the doctor said.
From June 5, 2020, some easing is expected in Uzbekistan. The work of hotels and resorts, public catering points at hotels, children’s summer camps, recreational areas, as well as outdoors will be allowed in the ‘yellow’ zones. Gyms and pools, theaters, training centers and the religious organizations’ activities will be allowed in the ‘green’ zones.
From June 15, 2020, the operation of public catering without banquets and events, the work of preschool institutions, clothing markets, as well as bus services between regions will be allowed in the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ zones.
According to the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, easing will be subject to “certain conditions” in the work of institution: following the sanitary-hygienic and disinfection requirements, regular measurement of body temperature, etc.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.