Cumulative Cases: 1401
Active Cases: 768
Town of Vardenis in Lockdown
The town of Vardenis in the Gegharkunik region has been placed in lockdown by the Special Commission of the State of Emergency. To date, there are 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the town. All vehicles and persons will be prohibited from entering or leaving Vardenis with the exception of essential supplies, food, medicine and fuel. These restrictions will come into force at 8 a.m. on April 22 and will remain in place until midnight on April 28. An employee of the Vardenis Polyclinic was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on April 17. The medical clinic was duly shut down. Services at Vardenis Hospital are also limited; only ambulance service is working for emergencies as 12 hospital staff have also been confirmed to be infected by the virus.
Armenian Genocide Commemorations
Eduard Aghajanyan, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Foreign Affairs Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Arayik Harutyunyan, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport and Zareh Sinanyan, the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs held a joint press conference to discuss events commemorating the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking into consideration public health, the government has taken a number of decisions regarding the organization of the April 24th commemoration. Eduard Aghajanyan, Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s office said commemorative events will start on April 23 at 9 p.m. when church bells across the country will toll and all street lights will be turned off. The government is calling on citizens to turn off the lights in their homes and “turn their gazes towards the Genocide Memorial” or watch the live transmission on Public TV and display their unity of the eternal flame by turning on their cellphone lights and standing at their windwos. At the same time there will be a live performance at the Genocide Memorial.
On April 24, starting 8 a.m. citizens in Armenia can send text messages to the 1915 number and from other countries to the number 0037433191500 to confirm their participation in the commemoration. The names of people who have sent messages will be reflected on the columns of the Memorial. On April 24, at 10 a.m. the Prime Minister, the President, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Catholicos of All Armenians will visit the Tsitsernakabert Genocide Memorial; renowned pianist Hayk Meliqyan will perform live as they pay their respects. At 10 p.m. a cultural program with the participation of national ensembles and individual artists will commence and will continue until dawn. Aghajanyan also said the entrance to the Memorial will be closed for safety reasons. This decision will be accordingly ratified by the Special Commission.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport said behind evey decision taken by the govenment is the belief that the best way of paying tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide is to ensure the safety of each citizen.
Foreign Affairs Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said Armenia has never failed to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Genocide regardless of the conditions and never failed to express a unified voice against all Genocides. According to the Foreign Minister, the formula in place this year carries the same message: “The Armenian people in Armenia, Artsakh and everywhere else in the world will have the opportunity to make their united voice heard once again that 105 years on, Armenians continue to fight for the restoration of justice.”
Zareh Sinanyan, the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs said despite the restrictions imposed by coronavirus, people in Armenia as well as the diaspora will all have the chance, if not physically but symbolically, to be present at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial on April 24. Sinanyan said long after Armenia goes to sleep, the diaspora will still have a chance to participate in the commemoration. Sinanyan noted that through large-scale commemorative events, the diaspora not only informs the communities they live in about the Genocide but also send a political message. This year, that will be done through large-scale media coverage, which the Foreign Ministry has already arranged. Sinanyan said the participation of the diaspora is especially important to let the world know that even during a pandemic, Armenian will continue to demand justice and victory for human values
Aghajanyan said that although the government discussed possible variations, the slogan “I Remember and Demand” will remain unchanged this year.
Health Minister: More Efforts Necessary
Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said in a Facebook post that data from the past week shows that Armenia has a steady daily growth rate of 3-4 percent. The number of people in recovery is also relatively the same, around 700-800 patients. Torosyan said this indicates that people should put in an additional effort to slow down the transmission of the virus and there is no room to ease up on the regulations.
The Health Minister said the number of infections within the ranks of medical staff, in Yerevan as well as the regions, is concerning: “It is multiple times more important for health workers to use personal protective measures than it is for other citizens. They should, first of all, protect themselves so that they do not become a source of infection for their patients and secondly, so that they can continue their important mission of providing medical care to citizens.”
Foreign Affairs Ministry Briefing on Citizens Abroad
During a press conference, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Avet Adonts, gave a briefing about the Ministry’s approach to address the concerns raised by citizens of Armenia, who are currently abroad. He also spoke about the cooperation with international partners as part of its fight against the COVID-19. Adonts said that the Ministry’s work regarding the spread of coronavirus consists of three main components. The Ministry’s first priority is the citizens of Armenia who are currently abroad, addressing concerns raised by them and organizing their return to Armenia, if that is their wish. Adonts noted that over 22,000 Armenian citizens have returned to Armenia from different parts of the world since March 14. To organize the return of citizens, the Ministry has been collaborating with the government, the Special Commission, the Ministry of Health, and the Civil Aviation Committee. He said that it is a multi-layer process and different departments of the state apparatus are involved in returning Armenian citizens; this includes organizing flights and implementing the necessary security measures. If a flight is being delayed then Armenia’s diplomatic mission in that particular country is doing everything possible to organize the temporary placement of Armenians until their flight is confirmed.
Adonts urged citizens of Armenia, who are still abroad to be in contact with Armenia’s diplomatic missions and closely follow their recommendations. The Deputy Minister stressed that it is based on the information received from over 200 diplomatic missions that the Foreign Ministry has developed a course of action aimed at addressing their concerns, including their return to Armenia. He also said that it has been more than a month now that the Ministry as well as Armenia’s diplomatic missions have been operating in emergency mode (some missions were in emergency mode since January).
The second component is the coordination of cargo transportation and ensuring its continuity, which is especially important in the current situation. And finally, the last component is cooperation with international partners, thanks to which the import of essential medical supplies and equipment has become possible. Adonts spoke about the April 8 and 15 flights from China. He noted that the supplies delivered to Armenian healthcare professionals during the first flight were acquired through the financing of the Armenian government, while supplies brought in during the second flight were mostly acquired through funding by United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and donations from Armenian philanthropic organizations.
Speaking about the financial assistance provided by Armenia’s international partners, the Deputy Minister mentioned the assistance provided by the U.S. Government in the amount of $1.8 million. Adonts also noted that the United States, through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), provided a total of $6 million to support the agency’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, including in Armenia. U.S. funds will provide COVID-19 testing kits, and Armenia will receive 2,000 tests. Adonts thanked all of Armenia’s international partners, including the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Population Fund, Unicef, WFP, and European Union for their assistance. He also thanked Russian, Georgian, and Iranian partners for collaboration and assistance.
While answering reporters’ questions, Adonts noted that since his last press conference three flights were organized from Moscow, one from Krasnodar and one from Doni Rostov. He assured that the process will continue until every citizen of Armenia, wishing to return, is returned. Adonts spoke about the situation in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport and said that the return of Armenian citizens currently staying at the airport will be organized in the coming few days. In the meantime, he urged them and Armenians staying in other airports to follow the guidelines and restrictions imposed by local governments. At the same time, the Deputy Minister noted that Armenian citizens currently staying in Domodedovo airport were offered temporary placement by the embassy, which they refused.
As of April 21, 1,283 citizens of Armenia have applied to Armenian embassies, expressing a wish to return to Armenia. Adonts urged all those Armenian citizens, whose visa has expired but who haven’t yet returned to Armenia, to contact Armenia’s local representation.
Speaking about the return of over 22,000 Armenians, Adonts said that the funds for the flights came from diverse sources: some were financed by the government, some by the local communities, and some by the church. Adonts went on to explain that far more financial resources are spent when Armenians are already in Armenia, for their 14 days quarantine, in particular.
Update on Number of Cases
According to the Ministry of Health, there are 62 new cases of COVID-19 in Armenia, bringing the total to 1401, of which 768 are active cases. 29 people have recovered, bringing the total to 609 recoveries. Two coronavirus patients, 88 and 65 years of age, both of whom had pre-existing health conditions, passed away, bringing the number of deaths in the country to 24.
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