Following the daily meeting of the Special Commission of the State of Emergency, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan and Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan held a live briefing to update the population on the situation of COVID-19. Prime Minister Pashinyan said that Armenia is now dealing with what seems to be the second wave of infections and said that the Special Commission has been examining the reasons for the recent hike, holding discussions with specialists to understand whether or not safety rules put in place by the Commission are sufficient, effective and adequate in the current situation.
Pashinyan said the measures in place are adequate and the problem lies in the implementation of the rules. Unfortunately, according to the Prime Minister, this is where Armenia is facing an issue. Pashinyan said the government is confident that if the rules are followed, especially if people start wearing masks not only when necessary but also whenever possible, the infections will not only subside but Armenia will be able to overcome the pandemic.
The Prime Minister said the government will not shy away from implementing stricter administrative measures to ensure the rules are followed. He said that starting today, there have been raids across the Republic, checking everyone from citizens to businesses; there will also be stricter surveillance on interregional roads where checkpoints will be set up to ensure passengers in cars are wearing masks.
Deputy Prime Minister and Warden of the Special Commission Tigran Avinyan said the aim is to avoid a return to restrictions. The decentralized approach to fighting the pandemic, adopted by the Commission, means each citizen is responsible for protecting themselves and others.
Avinyan said unfortunately, the Commission has today again discussed and not ruled out the possibility of returning to a lockdown. According to Avinyan, communities like the city of Sevan and the village of Areni, which are infection hubs, are currently under lockdown and no effort will be spared to avoid returning to a statewide lockdown. To this end, Avinyan said even stricter administrative measures (fines) will be employed to ensure rules are followed, which will afford the healthcare system the possibility to take care of the infected without interruption and continually build its capacity. Avinyan also said there will be changes in Armenia’s testing capacity, which will soon increase as the government sets up collaboration with more private laboratories.
Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan gave an update on the situation. He said there are 269 patients in critical condition, 51 in extremely critical condition and 15 patients on ventilators.
Torosyan said since we all need to live with the pandemic for the foreseeable future, thereby it is important to allow the healthcare system to revamp in capacity and wearing masks properly will afford them that possibility. If the rules are followed and if there is a collective effort, Torosyan said Armenia has all the chances of keeping the virus under control and even beating it. He said that patients with no or light symptoms will continue to quarantine at home, ensuring everyone has proper supervision and healthcare through local ambulatory clinics is the Ministry's next challenge.
At the end of each briefing, which is a new format, Pashinyan said two media outlets will be allowed to ask two questions.
Artak Hambartsumyan from Azatutyun noted that the Prime Minister, during his last live address on Facebook, had said that the mistake he made was possibly counting too much on people’s personal sense of responsibility. Have there been other mistakes in regards to managing the crisis? If yes, then what were they?
Pashinyan answered: “I had put the word mistake in quotation marks because [trusting people] is a principal part of our ideology. Whatever steps we have taken, and this is the foundation of our government, we have done hoping to depend on the individual behavior of citizens. For years people talked about a revolution and it was our belief that a revolution will take place when the citizen of Armenia wants it (wishes it) and responds to our calls. Our method has not and will not change.”
Pashinyan said when there was a change in the civic behavior of citizens, the revolution succeeded. When citizens' economic behavior changed, there was unprecedented economic growth. And now, if citizens change their behavior/attitude towards the pandemic, it will be possible to overcome it. Pashinyan said administrative measures will also be implemented but the very foundation of his government is one that does not allow the use of cruel dictatorial methods; this government is the continuation of the citizens. The regulations in place for everyone are first of all followed by the members of this government. Pashinyan said the mistake was not leading by example from the very beginning and thinking it improper to speak to the public through masks.
Armenpress: What are your instructions to law enforcement regarding non-compliance of the safety laws and what are the consequent punitive measures?
Pashinyan: Tens if not hundreds of businesses have been shut down, hundreds of citizens have received fines, hundreds of public transportation drivers have been fined. As a result of two hours of raids only this morning, 35 taxi drivers have been fined; yesterday practically all of the cafes and restaurants on Cascade (a neighborhood in Central Yerevan) were shut down … In this respect, we will be very strict. Everyone should understand that breaking the rules set by the Commission will inevitably lead to bearing responsibility. The aim is not to punish but to push people towards civic responsibility
The Ministry of Health reported 289 new cases of COVID-19 and 75 recoveries, bringing the total number of cases to 7,402, of which 4,052 are active cases and 3,220 have already recovered. Four patients, ages 70, 81, 83 and 85, who all had pre-existing health conditions, died within the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 91. To date, 52,554 tests have been conducted in Armenia.