The first cases of COVID-19 in Abkhazia were confirmed on April 7, however, early preventative measures were already imposed in the beginning of March. Until now, the de-facto Abkhaz government has reported 38 coronavirus cases with 37 recovered patients and two casualties[vi].
Early pandemic period in Abkhazia was accompanied by increased political tensions that culminated by the snap presidential elections. Both rounds, respectively on March 30 and April 14, were held under the national emergency conditions, announced on March 28[vii].
The new de-facto government has no easy task to do, however, Abkhazian COVID-19 response differs from South Ossetian one in a number of ways. Even though both territories have sealed the borders with Georgia, Georgia has been able to provide limited medical assistance to Abkhazia. Tbilisi has opened a new hospital one kilometre away from dividing Enguri Bridge which has offered medical treatment for the residents of both sides of the occupation line. Unlike South Ossetia, Abkhazia has also accepted basic medical supplies from the World Health Organization, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and has also invited WHO and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) experts to provide advice for crisis management efforts[viii].
The coronavirus pandemic has led Abkhazia to a serious economic crisis. Traditionally, the Abkhaz economy is heavily dependent on the tourism sector that has become especially vulnerable towards the COVID-19 related lockdown. As stated by de-facto Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab, the public sector faces major funding challenges as a result of which the wages for June and July will be paid out with a significant delay. In addition, de-facto Minister of Finance Vladimir Delba has estimated a 10% recession of the GDP by the end of the year[ix].
In December 2019, Russia pledged $65 million aid to Abkhazia for the years of 2020-2022[x], however, as noted by newly elected de-facto President Bzhania[xi], Abkhazia has not received any financial assistance so far while the COVID-19 has made the need even higher.
Abkhazia has dismissed the state of emergency early in April and restrictions over social gatherings have also started to lift. However, there is an absence of the plan for economic recovery. Against this backdrop, similarly to South Ossetia, Abkhazia has also hosted the military exercise for the Russian Military intelligence units. More than 2, 000 military personnel and 300 technical units, including artillery and aviation, have been reported to be involved in the exercise[xii].