Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of another modular hospital for treatment of coronavirus patients31 august 2020, 12:45
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 instructed the construction of another hospital on this territory by the end of August. Today, on August 31, 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 this hospital will play a crucial role in our fight against COVID-19.
I should note that the construction of new hospitals in our country has gained momentum during the pandemic. Significant funds have been allocated for this purpose, and all our resources mobilized. The available bed capacity was insufficient to fight this terrible pandemic successfully. In a matter of six months, the bed capacity of our country has expanded significantly. The most beautiful and modern hospital in 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 were built. These hospitals have a total capacity of 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. If necessary, it will be possible to build additional hospitals with 1,400 beds quickly. As a backup option, we have also converted two Olympic centers in 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 the COVID. The decisions are implemented promptly and very competently. 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. Thanks to the implementation of state programs on regions' socio-economic development, 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 had not taken these steps at the right time. I can say with full responsibility that if these hospitals had not been built on time, the situation would be challenging today. The hospitals were not only created, but they were also fitted with the latest equipment, and this process continues today. The material and technical infrastructure of our healthcare system play a unique role in the fight against COVID. In addition to that, we have increased the number of laboratories by several times. At the outset of the pandemic, we had only six laboratories, and we have brought 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 holds one of the world's leading positions. Naturally, the more tests you do, the more cases of infection are detected. Our main goal and task are to ensure that all the infected people are examined and receive timely medical care.
I should add that special attention is paid to Azerbaijani doctors in connection with the pandemic. In principle, people working in the healthcare system are always taken care of by the government. The hospitals built are doctors' workplaces, and the modernization of doctors' workplaces and the improvement of their financial situation have always been in the center of our attention. During the pandemic, this focus was even more significant. Suffice it to say that doctors' salaries 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 distress. In our country, and indeed in all other countries, the number of doctors is envisaged for everyday life. Therefore, one of the agenda's issues 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 is bearing fruit. It is no coincidence that the status of 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 the early days. These contacts continue to this day. As you know, the World Health Organization has praised Azerbaijan's work in this area and described Azerbaijan as an exemplary country. Indeed, this is the case. In other words, the work is 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 crucial role in our struggle. Therefore, these contacts continue to this day, and I am confident that we will keep the COVID issue under control through the joint effort. As a responsible country that enjoys great authority in the international arena, I should also note that Azerbaijan has provided humanitarian assistance to other countries. Azerbaijan has already provided humanitarian aid to more than 30 countries, which is our significant contribution to the common struggle.
Of course, the pandemic has had a negative impact on both the country's economy and the people's social situation. Tangible steps are taken to reduce the consequences of this impact. A sizeable social package covers about five million people. Both the public and private sectors and the unemployed, including those working informally, vulnerable people – all categories of people, are provided with the government’s financial support. It shows once again that for us, the wellbeing of our people, their social status, and, of course, their health is a crucial issue.
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 constraints 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 pandemic's economic downturn is at the level of 10, 15, 20, and 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 efforts on a vaccine produce 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 because we have been working on this issue for some time. But the primary 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 phases and is only then released to the market and used to vaccinate people. Therefore, we will bring this vaccine to our country after companies have completed all the research stages and after international certification is done. After that, I hope it will be possible to say that this terrible situation is behind us.
I do hope that it will be possible to say that the horrific situation is in the past. I believe that until that, we must act according to 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 as of mid-July, positive dynamics are noticeable. Under such circumstances, of course, we introduced mitigating actions, as mitigating steps were taken three times in August alone. Suppose the positive dynamics continue, and the number of patients does not increase. In that case, I am sure that mitigating measures will be taken further because there are currently 100 to 200 people getting infected in our country every day. It is indeed 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. It is a critical issue, and we will undoubtedly take our steps very carefully.
Along with this, we will track the experience of countries that have opted for active reopening. 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 government must take all the necessary steps. At the same time, citizens must use the essential protection methods – 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 because this is reflected in real results. Then I think that we will be able to return to normalcy, to everyday life quickly. But, of course, people's responsibility is a priority now to achieve this. The government has done everything in its power – the actions I have mentioned and the allocated funds. Even though the oil price is still low and there is a decline in the economic sphere, we have increased our budget. Additions and adjustments were made to the budget, and the primary goal is to take more effective measures to combat the pandemic and provide social protection to citizens.
I can unequivocally say that the guidelines introduced in Azerbaijan, the steps taken under 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 today's situation, who have lost a sense of responsibility. There are cases of flagrant violations of the rules. When such issues come to light, of course, punitive measures must follow, and it has been the case. Punitive measures apply to all categories of people. There should not be, and there is no discrimination. Everyone is equal before the law, regardless of their social status. Equality, justice, and the rule of law are among the main principles in Azerbaijan, and I call on all our citizens to act responsibly. First, they must act responsibly to protect themselves and their loved ones.
On the other hand, those breaking the rules, organizing large-scale public events, and thus not reckoning with the country's laws and existing practices in a demonstrative manner will be and are being punished. The public is also informed about this issue. I believe that the people of Azerbaijan are well aware that law is the law for everyone. No-one can be above the 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 aims to overcome this situation with minimal losses, and I think we are achieving this. Everything is measured in comparison. Our country's achievements are indeed very impactful and valuable, as we review the world statistics on COVID. Thanks to these measures, we have been able to protect thousands of lives. We did not allow the widespread of the disease and did not allow it to get out of control. It will remain to be the case. We will do as much as necessary. I am confident that the result of the joint effort; the government's resolute, calculated and fair steps, and also a responsibility on the citizens' part, will allow us to overcome this difficult situation with minimal 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!