Azerbaijan is the only country that keeps its land borders closed under the pretext of a pandemic

Azerbaijan is the only country that keeps its land borders closed under the pretext of a pandemic

Azerbaijan differs from other countries in its unwavering commitment to the policy of closing borders in connection with the pandemic. For more than four years since the initial announcement of the coronavirus pandemic, the Azerbaijani government has kept its land borders with neighboring countries closed, citing ongoing public health problems. While the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced the end of the pandemic in May 2023, Azerbaijan continues to comply with strict quarantine measures, which raises questions about the reasons for the prolonged closure of borders.

In February 2020, Azerbaijan promptly restricted travel across its land border with Iran, which became one of the first epicenters of the pandemic. Subsequently, similar measures were introduced on other land borders, which led to a long period of isolation. Despite global trends pointing to the easing of restrictions related to the pandemic, Azerbaijan continues to take a cautious approach, making observers wonder about the motives of the government.

The exact reason for the prolonged closure of the border by Azerbaijan remains unclear, and government officials offer limited clarity on the issue. While acknowledging the initial shock and anxiety experienced by the population at the beginning of the pandemic, officials say that Azerbaijan's decisive response to the crisis has been highly appreciated by the international community. Such measures as the rapid implementation of hygiene protocols and the creation of its own mask production in Sumgayit were noted as examples of active government intervention.

MP Malakhat Hasanova from the Yeni Azerbaijan Party (PEA) claims that Azerbaijan has effectively coped with the pandemic, minimizing casualties compared to some European countries. In an interview with Turan, Hasanova emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the problems that had to be faced, especially in the context of the Patriotic War of 2020, suggesting that the government's approach was driven by simultaneous crises. However, critics argue that the government's actions, including prolonged border closures, may have been politically motivated, as the pandemic was used as a pretext to consolidate power.

Opposing opinions, such as doctor Aydin Aliyev, dispute the need for further border closures, arguing that the epidemiological situation in Azerbaijan does not require such harsh measures. Aliyev emphasizes the stable nature of the epidemic and questions the medical grounds for continued restrictions.

Economists such as Natig Jafarli express concern about the economic consequences of Azerbaijan's isolationist position, pointing to a decrease in GDP and income from tourism compared to regional counterparts.

According to economist, from an economic point of view, Azerbaijan experienced significant declines in 2021 and 2022: "in 2023, we took the last place in the CIS in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There was an increase of 1.1 percent, it was also the consequences of mismanagement of the pandemic. Keeping land borders closed plays a significant role in this matter. Azerbaijan is the only country in the world that keeps land borders closed under the pretext of a pandemic. This is reflected in tourism and economic activity. Even looking at the tourism figures, we see that if in 2023 Azerbaijan achieved 1.5 billion tourism revenues, Georgia had 4.1 billion tourism revenues."

From an economic point of view, Azerbaijan's insistence on closing borders seems increasingly unfounded, and the consequences are obvious in the form of reduced economic activity and international isolation. Jafarli criticizes the government's failure to implement significant economic reforms, suggesting that the country remains heavily dependent on oil revenues despite perceived diversification efforts. Moreover, he argues that Azerbaijan's policy towards the pandemic has exacerbated existing socio-political tensions, undermining civil liberties and democratic norms.

The sustained nature of Azerbaijan's pandemic policy highlights broader challenges related to governance, transparency and accountability. Ultimately, the prolonged closure of land borders highlights the delicate balance between protecting public health and respecting individual freedoms, which has serious implications for Azerbaijan's development in the post-pandemic era.

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