By Aisha Jabbarova
The rise of coronavirus has dramatically changed Azerbaijan’s wedding industry. Accustomed to large and expensive weddings, Azerbaijanis find it difficult to play their dream weddings amid restrictions imposed in the country in the past year and half due to COVİD-19.
Azerbaijan banned wedding celebrations and large gatherings in March 2020, a month after registering its first COVID-19 case. The country has been in the forefront of the global fight against pandemic since then.
The 16-months-long ban on weddings was lifted in July this year, however several serious restrictions remained.
These restrictions have to do with the limitation in the number of wedding participants and the COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
The country’s COVID-19 taskforce on June 22 ruled that the maximum number of wedding participants must not exceed 150, while all participants must introduce COVID-19 passports for attending such gatherings. COVID-19 passport is a document containing a certificate about vaccination or a certificate about recovery.
Under the new rules, visitors over the age of 18 must provide a COVID-19 passport to attend such gatherings if the number of guests is between 50 and 150. No COVID-19 passports are required if the number of guests does not exceed 50.
Azerbaijan, the nation of ten million, ranks second among the CIS countries for the number of vaccinated citizens per capita and has been the regional leader for the nationwide vaccination that was kicked off in January.
Regardless of this, COVID-19 vaccination requirements have made it difficult for residents to organize weddings as only 3.7 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine. The vaccination-related limitation has caused delays and cancellation of some weddings.
According to the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry’s report on July 27, 2,218 people have not been allowed to enter weddings for lack of a COVID passport since July 1. Some 83 people have been fined and four people have been detained for violating the wedding rules.
Even the groom and a bride must have COVID-19 passports before attending their wedding.
Information about weddings and large gatherings must be registered five days prior to the events through the icaze.e-gov.az special portal activated on June 26.
It is the responsibility of the owner of the wedding house to register the event and indicate all information, including the capacity of the hall, the time of the beginning and end of the wedding and the number of guests attending.
Under the Cabinet of Minister’s rules, an agreement on joint responsibility for compliance with quarantine rules must be signed between the organizer and the facility owner during the organization and holding of such events.
As of September 1, COVID-19 passport-related restrictions will also apply to the entry to catering facilities. Covid passports were first introduced on May 31 for the entry into sports and recreational centers.