The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. This interactive map -- updated every hour -- monitors the spread of the virus.
Trade, study, and tourism have ground to a halt between the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk and the Chinese city of Heihe since Russia closed the border amid coronavirus fears.
Pro-Kremlin media outlets are actively spreading disinformation about coronavirus in an attempt to "undermine public trust" in Western countries, according to an internal European Union document.
The coronavirus "outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive 'infodemic' -- an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it," the WHO said in a report issued in early February.
In a statement on March 17, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced that Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the Chinese technology behemoth Alibaba Group, has financed the purchase of 1 million coronavirus testing kits for Ukraine at a cost of $80 million. The president cited the aid in a call to the nation’s wealthiest businessmen to donate funds and equipment to help the country fight the pandemic.
The five countries comprising the region reported no official cases of Covid-19 until March 13. Reactions and reporting have been staggered and varied since.
In addition to the coronavirus’s impact on public health in Armenia, the nation in the southern Caucasus has been stricken by the contagion's economic effects. Two of Yerevan's top trade partners, China and Iran, have been among the most affected by the pandemic. China is Armenia's third-largest trading partner, with more than $950 million in trade turnover last year, and the object of high hopes for an expanded relationship following numerous high-level exchanges in both Beijing and Yerevan in 2019.
A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists on a study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus blocked posts related to the virus as early as December 31. It suggests that Chinese companies use automation and manpower to block topics that are perennially sensitive, as well as implement propaganda directives issued when news breaks.
China is getting ready to expel at least 13 U.S. news correspondents working in the country amid growing bilateral tensions with Washington over press freedom and visas for journalists. The U.S. nationals working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post would have to hand over their press credentials within 10 days. In addition, the three outlets, Voice of America (VOA), and Time magazine have been required to register as foreign agents and inform Chinese authorities about their staff, finances, operations, and any real estate held in China. (Radio Free Asia)
Aidan Anwar, a Uyghur muslim who claims to have lost 93 relatives in Chinese “reeducation” camps in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang province, earlier this month asked China’s envoy to the U.N. about rights abuses in the camps, and the possibility of their use for cheap labor by third parties. Ambassador Zhang Jun, who has just been named president of the U.N. Security Council, responded that the question was “biased,” that “there are no human rights problems in the region,” and that attention must focus on the “global effort to fight terrorism.” (Current Time TV)
A bipartisan U.S. Congressional commission introduced legislation on March 12 to ban imports from the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, where lawmakers say mostly Muslim indigenous people are being forced to work against their will in detention centers and factories. In a March 10 letter, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democratic member called on the U.S. Commerce Department to stop U.S. companies -- including Apple, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, and The Gap -- from buying goods made by forced Uyghur laborers.
The United States has singled out Iran, China, Venezuela, and Cuba for their gross abuses in its yearly report on human rights practices in 199 countries and territories.
It’s looking like deja vu in Central Asia as a new economic jolt hits the region. For the five Central Asian countries -- whether dependent on hydrocarbon exports for revenue or remittances from millions of migrant laborers in China and Russia -- the decrease in oil prices six years ago heralded significant downturns in their economies.