SEATTLE, Washington — The COVID–19 pandemic has severely impacted the country of Azerbaijan for over the past year. From January 3, 2020, to July 9, 2021, there have been 336,788 registered cases of COVID-19 and 4,980 deaths in Azerbaijan reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). As of July 4, 2021, the country had distributed a total of 3,792,227 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This accounts for more than 35% of the country’s population. The vaccination program in Azerbaijan started with Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, but in later stages, the government decided to incorporate Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and the British British AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine. The first vaccination program prioritized medical workers, citizens older than 65 years old and certain law enforcement officials.
Actions the Government of Azerbaijan Took
On March 19, 2020, the President of Azerbaijan signed an executive order meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health. In accordance to the order, it formed the Special Coronavirus Response Fund. This Fund received approximately $12 million. The aim of the fund is to “provide financial assistance to the country’s response measures” to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic’s initial stages, the country’s authorities implemented special quarantine regimes. Under the lockdown, the country closed the land and air borders of Azerbaijan. In order for foreigners to enter the country, responsible authorities must grant special permission.
Additionally, citizens of Azerbaijan must present a negative COVID-19 test result to re-enter the country. The quarantine also introduced the SMS permission system, by which residents younger than 65 could only leave their homes after receiving permission through an SMS message. Citizens were allowed to use SMS permits once a day, and the permits were valid for three hours. People could only leave their residences to purchase food, medicine and other daily necessities. The intention of the system was to restrict the movement of people in order to decrease their level of contact with others. In conjunction with these measures, regulatory and economic measures have also gone into effect. These measures facilitate economic stimulus and encourage financial stability.
The Economic Impacts of COVID–19
The economy of Azerbaijan is dependent on oil, especially after the country had a chance to adapt to new economic conditions that broadened the scale of oil exploration and extraction in previous years. In 2014, Azerbaijan’s GDP per capita was $7,990.800. By 2016, the GDP per capita of Azerbaijan had decreased to $3,928.600, partially due to declines in oil prices. Though the GDP per capita rose with time, it began to fall again after 2019.
Unfortunately, COVID–19 further harmed its economy beyond just falling oil prices. During the special quarantine periods, many people lost their jobs and businesses had to close. In 2019, 25,016 people registered as unemployed, according to official statistics. In 2021, unemployment numbers drastically increased, with 300,000 people officially registering as unemployed. This amounts to a 40% increase during that short period of time.
Furthermore, these figures represent only citizens who were officially confirmed as unemployed, so the actual figure may be much larger. The International Monetary Fund’s April 2020 forecast offered tempered hope in the volatility, however: “Azerbaijan’s GDP grew by 2.3% in 2019 and is expected to fall to ‑2.2% in 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and increase to 0.7% in 2021.”
The spread of COVID–19 in Azerbaijan has had a negative impact on both the livelihoods of citizens and the economy of Azerbaijan. Although the government of Azerbaijan has taken serious measures to stop the spread of COVID–19 in the country, cases are still relatively high. Inhabitants of Azerbaijan who were already facing the economic fallout resulting from drops in oil prices and other factors now face a decreasing GDP per capita and increasing unemployment rates. As the situation unfolds, the government will need to unravel complex economic and health concerns for a full recovery to take place.
– Tofig Ismayilzada