BAKU, Azerbaijan, Aug. 31
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has inaugurated in a video format another modular hospital of the Health Center of the Ministry of Emergency Situations for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
Meeting with the hospital staff via videoconferencing, the head of state made a speech at the event.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev:
- A new large hospital is opening in our country today. I congratulate you on this occasion. In early July, we celebrated the opening of the first hospital in this area. I participated in its opening. That hospital has over 800 beds. It is one of the largest hospitals in our country. These hospitals are already providing treatment for COVID patients. On that day, I ordered to build another hospital on this territory by the end of August. Today, on 31 August, we have been able to achieve this.
The hospital opening today has more than 820 beds but we can increase their number to 1,500 in a short time. What makes this hospital special is that there are 130 intensive care units here. I am confident that the hospital opening today will play a very important role in our fight against COVID-19.
I should note that during the pandemic, the construction of new hospitals in our country has gained momentum. Major funds have been allocated for this purpose and all our resources have been mobilized. The available bed capacity was insufficient to successfully fight this terrible pandemic. In a matter of six months, the bed capacity of our country has expanded significantly. The most beautiful and modern hospital of our country, “Yeni klinika”, has been opened. There are about 600 beds in it. Currently, there are about 400 beds on stand by. Along with this, 11 modular hospitals have been built. These hospitals have 4,100 beds.
Let me also mention that there are plans to build seven modular hospitals. It is not necessary for the time being because the number of patients in our country is decreasing and, if necessary, it will be possible to quickly build additional hospitals with 1,400 beds. As a backup option, we have also converted two Olympic centers of our country into hospitals, where 300 to 500 patients can also receive treatment.
All this demonstrates that Azerbaijan has been very successful in the fight against COVID. The decisions made are implemented in a timely manner and with high quality. These and other factors allowed us the opportunity to keep the situation under control.
I should note that there are currently 46 hospitals for COVID patients in the country. Of these, 41 hospitals were built in the last 17 years. As a result of the implementation of state programs on the socioeconomic development of the regions, modern medical centers have been established in all our districts and cities. It is not too difficult to imagine what problems we could have faced today if we hadn’t taken this step in good time. I can say with full responsibility that if these hospitals had not been built on time, we would be in a very difficult situation today. The hospitals were not only built, they were fitted with the latest equipment, and this process continues today. The material and technical infrastructure of our healthcare system plays a special role in the fight against COVID. In addition to that, we have greatly increased the number of laboratories – by several times. When the pandemic started, we had only six laboratories and we have increased the number of such laboratories to 45. More than 900,000 tests have been implemented in our country. According to the number of tests per capita, Azerbaijan is in one of the leading places in the world. Naturally, the more tests you do, the more cases of infection are detected. Our main goal and task is to ensure that all the infected people are examined and receive timely medical care.
I should add that special attention is being paid to Azerbaijani doctors in connection with the pandemic. In principle, people working in the healthcare system are always taken care of by the state. The hospitals built are doctors' workplaces, and the modernization of doctors' workplaces, as well as the improvement of their financial situation, have always been in the focus of our attention. During the pandemic, this focus was even greater. Suffice it to say that the salaries of doctors dealing with COVID patients have been increased three to five times. But the main problem is associated with the number of doctors because no country was ready for the pandemic. No-one would have thought that the world would face such a misfortune. In our country, and indeed in all other countries, the number of doctors is intended for a normal life. Therefore, one of the issues on the agenda was to invite an additional number of doctors to Azerbaijan. I believe that as a result of prompt and effective actions, we have resolved this issue as well. Teams of doctors came to Azerbaijan from five countries – Turkey, Russia, China, Italy and Cuba – to help us.
In other words, all the work done is bearing fruit. It is no coincidence that the situation in the fight against COVID has become more positive in recent weeks. We see positive dynamics, and I hope that this dynamic will be maintained in the future.
We have been in close contact with the World Health Organization since early days. These contacts continue to this day. As you know, the World Health Organization has praised the work done in Azerbaijan in this area and described Azerbaijan as an exemplary country. This is indeed the case. In other words, the work done, the state funds allocated to this area, the mobilization work, the construction of hospitals, the laboratories, the implementation of social programs – all this, I am sure, has played a key role in our struggle. Therefore, these contacts continue to this day, and I am confident that through joint effort we will keep the COVID issue under control. I should also note that Azerbaijan, as a responsible country that enjoys great authority in the international arena, has provided humanitarian assistance to other countries. Azerbaijan has already provided humanitarian assistance to more than 30 countries, which is our great contribution to the common struggle.
Of course, the pandemic has had a negative impact on both the country's economy and the social situation of the people. Tangible steps are being taken to reduce the consequences of this impact. About five million people are covered by a large social package. Both the public and private sectors, as well as the unemployed, including those working informally, vulnerable people – all categories of people are provided with financial support by the state. This shows once again that the well-being of our people, their social status and, of course, their health is a key issue for us.
From the first days of the pandemic, I said that human health is a priority for us, and we have made every effort to address this issue. Of course, under such circumstances, economic difficulties were inevitable. But I think that the economic situation in Azerbaijan is better than in other countries. We are well aware that in some developed countries, the economic downturn during the pandemic is at the level of 10, 15, 20, 25 percent. It is also at a high level in developed European countries. As a result of the measures taken in our country, the economy fell by only 2.8 percent in seven months. Given the global landscape, I think this is a good indicator.
But, of course, we must be prepared for the post-pandemic period, and appropriate instructions have been given. For the time being, no-one can say when the post-pandemic period will begin. However, the research carried out in the world and work on a vaccine are producing encouraging signals. I should also note that we are currently actively working with several companies to bring the COVID vaccine to our country. I hope that Azerbaijan will be among the first countries to receive the vaccine in this area as well because we have been working on this issue for some time. But the main condition here is that the vaccine should go through all the stages of testing. Doctors are well aware that any new vaccine goes through several stages and only then is released to the market and used to vaccinate people. Therefore, we will bring this vaccine to our country after all the stages of research have been conducted by companies and after international certification has been completed. After that, I do hope it will be possible to say that this terrible situation is over with.
I do hope that in this case it will be possible to say that the horrific situation has been left in the past. I believe that until that we must act in accordance with the situation. We have been doing this since the early days. Over these six months, steps were taken to tighten and then ease the restrictions, and starting from about mid-July, positive dynamics began to be observed. Under such circumstances, of course, we introduced mitigating actions, as mitigating steps were taken three times in August alone. If the positive dynamics continues and the number of patients does not increase, then, I am sure, mitigating measures will be taken further because there are currently 100 to 200 people getting infected in our country every day. This is certainly a better result than in previous months. However, daily monitoring is and will be carried out to keep the situation under control. At the same time, mitigation steps should be taken in such a way that the number of patients does not increase sharply. This is the key issue, and we will certainly take our steps very carefully. Along with this, we will track the experience of countries that have gone for active reopening. At present, several countries have already opened their borders and many of their sites have begun to receive tourists. But what do we see in these countries? We see that the number of patients there has increased dramatically. In particular, if we look at the experience of developed European countries, we will see that in August the number of patients reached a peak, rising to the level of April even though, in general, there was a decrease in the number of patients in the world, including Europe, from April to the summer months. So what does this mean? It shows that the disease has not disappeared at all. This disease is still there, and this being the case, the state must take all the necessary steps. At the same time, citizens must use the basic methods of protection – keep their distance, wear a mask, use disinfectants.
Of course, the sharp rise in the number of patients in some European countries makes us think and urges us to take more cautious steps. I want to say again that the primary issue for us is people's health. I believe that if our citizens continue to act responsibly – I should say that we do see and feel this responsibility recently and this is reflected in real results – then I think that we will be able to return to normality, to normal life in a short time. But, of course, people’s responsibility is a priority now in order to achieve this. The state has done everything in its power – the actions I have mentioned and the allocated funds. Even though the oil price is still at a low level and there is a decline in the economic sphere, we have increased our budget. Additions were made to the budget, budget adjustments were made, and the main goal of this is to take more effective measures to combat the pandemic and provide social protection to citizens.
I can unequivocally say that the rules introduced in Azerbaijan, the steps being taken in accordance with the situation are bearing fruit. The quarantine regime is paying off, and as a result, all quarantine restrictions have been lifted in many cities. It remains in big cities, and it is up to all of us to take additional mitigating steps with more confidence and in a short time.
Unfortunately, there are still people who do not understand the situation today, who have lost a sense of responsibility. There are cases of flagrant violation of the rules. When such cases are discovered, of course, punitive measures should be taken and applied. Punitive measures apply to all categories of people. There shouldn’t be and there is no discrimination. Everyone is equal before law regardless of their social status. Equality, justice and the rule of law are the main principles in Azerbaijan, and I call on all our citizens to act responsibly. First, they must act responsibly in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. On the other hand, those breaking the rules, organizing large-scale events and thus not reckoning with the laws and existing rules of the country in a demonstrative manner will be and are being punished. The public is also being informed about this issue. I believe that the people of Azerbaijan are well aware that law is law for everyone. No-one can be above law, no-one can have any privileges and no-one can and will be given any concessions.
I want to reiterate that all the work done is aimed at overcoming this situation with few losses, and I think we are achieving this. Everything is measured in comparison. If we look at the global statistics on COVID, we will see that the results obtained in our country are very effective and valuable. I think that it is thanks to these measures that we have saved the lives of thousands of people. We did not allow the widespread spread of the disease, did not allow it to get out of control, and we will continue to do so. We will do as much as necessary. I am confident that as a result of joint efforts, the decisive, thought-out and fair steps of the state, as well as the responsibility of our citizens, will allow us the opportunity to come out of this difficult situation with few losses and return to normal life as soon as possible.
Once again, let me congratulate you on the opening of this hospital. I wish the doctors continued success and good health. Thank you!