COVID-19 in the Central Asian Region: National Responses and Regional Implications
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 19, Issue 2, p.101-114 (2020)
Keywords:Central Asia, COVID-19, economic crisis, regional security
Soon after the first instance of COVID-19 in Central Asia was recorded in March 2020 in Kazakhstan, the government took immediate steps to introduce containment and mitigation measures. As cases of COVID-19 appeared soon after in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and later in Tajikistan, the governments swiftly responded, instituting emergency measures, empowering law enforcement and medical authorities to implement a broad range of counter-infection mitigation measures to protect public health. Cross-border travel restrictions were imposed. Lockdowns and sheltering-in-place restrictions were imposed in most major cities and curfews were enforced. Routine commercial air flights were cancelled or significantly reduced in international airports and many domestic airports. New levels of visa restrictions were implemented in all the Central Asian countries. The initial infection containment measures were highly successful in curtailing the early spread of Covid-19. But governments immediately confronted a broad range of social and economic difficulties brought on by Covid-19. The sudden interruption of typical earnings and livelihoods for many people, the disruption of commercial supply chains, the cratering of commodity prices, and, for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in particular, the loss of migrant labor opportunities and remittances, combined with other consequences of Covid-19 to produce a region-wide economic catastrophe. The pandemic called for immediate steps on the part of all the government of the region and focused attention on addressing the long-term social, economic, and even regional political implications.