All three countries have now seen cases of the disease, most of which have come from Iran.
The Caucasus is hunkering down, with hardened borders and closed schools, as the coronavirus creeps into the region.
Armenia has become the last South Caucasus country to report an infection of the fast-spreading disease, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the region to seven: neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan have recorded three cases each as of March 2. All three countries canceled school for at least a week, as did the Armenian protectorate of Nagorno-Karabakh.
As in most of the other regional cases, the Armenian appeared to contract coronavirus from neighboring Iran.
“The patient is a 29-year-old citizen of Armenia, who came back from Teheran on February 28 together with his wife,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced via Facebook on March 1.
Authorities were tracking all contacts the man had during his travels, with some already placed in quarantine. The man’s wife tested negative for the virus, Pashinyan said.
Armenians being monitored for coronavirus were quarantined in a disused five-star hotel in the ski resort town of Tsaghkadzor. Pashinyan posted a video on Facebook of medical officials in hazmat suits distributing a sort of room service to the patients. And following reports that tourists were canceling their bookings to Tsaghkadzor out of fear of coronavirus, Pashinyan visited with his family and was photographed dining out. “We came to one of the restaurants of Tsaghkadzor, which is nearly full of customers, including foreign tourists,” he wrote in a sunny Facebook post.
Armenia had already heavily restricted its border traffic with Iran, where the coronavirus is spreading fast and the death toll stands at 55. Following the reported case of coronavirus it moved to further strengthen controls, including by reintroducing visas for Iranian passport holders. “The visa regime will be restored within the next five days,” Pashinyan said on March 2.
Azerbaijan had not closed its border with Iran even after the outbreak there, causing some indignation among citizens. But following three reported cases, the first of which was on February 28, it finally did so. “We can relax: Azerbaijan closes the border with Iran,” the news website Haqqin reported on February 29.
A total of 224 people were quarantined in Azerbaijan, officials said on March 2. Many of those were at a hospital in Astara, on the border with Iran, where patients complained about unsanitary conditions including a lack of hot water, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service reported.
In Georgia, some 120 people were in quarantine, said Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze. In all three of the country’s international airports, as well as at all land border crossings, tents were set up to screen visitors from high-risk countries before taking them to medical institutions. President Salome Zourabichvili advised her compatriots to follow WHO recommendations and refrain from touching surfaces in public places.