Cumulative Cases: 1523
Active Cases: 840
Armenian Citizens Return From Russia
230 citizens of Armenia returned from Saint Petersburg on a charter flight today. This is already the seventh charter flight from Russia organized by the Armenian government (four from Moscow, one from Krasnodar and one from Rostov-on-Don). The Tashir Charitable Foundation paid for the flight’s expenses. All 230 passengers will be placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The Russian side also sent medical supplies and diagnostic tests on the same charter flight.
Updates From Ministry of Economy
Deputy Minister of Economy Varos Simonyan held a press conference to provide further updates regarding restrictions on economic activity across Armenia. Simonyan noted that the Special Commission lifted a number of restrictions yesterday and also outlined the conditions under which these businesses must function.
According to Decision N.27 of the Warden, all business owners must follow strict safety regulations to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Additional regulations include:
- Employers must arrange for the transportation of their employees from their homes to the place of employment (all public transportation has been suspended).
- During business hours, employees will not be allowed to leave the premises of their employment.
The Deputy Minister said that, in the coming days, other types of businesses might be allowed to begin operations. In the meantime, businesses are allowed to apply for an exemption to the restrictions through the website https://covid19.gov.am/hy.
Regarding oversight, Simonyan said that Armenia’s police are monitoring the entire country to ensure people are following the regulations set by the Special Commission on the State of Emergency. Additionally, the Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Health is monitoring businesses to ensure compliance. Over the last several weeks, several businesses (primarily supermarkets and grocery stores) have been forced to shut down for a number of hours to ensure that they bring their operations up to code.
Armenian Genocide Commemorations
During a press conference regarding Armenian Genocide commemoration events, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport Ara Khzmalyan once again presented the schedule of events for April 23 and 24. At 9 p.m. on April 23, church bells across the country will ring 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 toward the Genocide Memorial” or watch the live broadcast on Public TV and show solidarity by turning on their cellphone lights and standing at their windows. At the same time, there will be a live performance at the Genocide Memorial. At 10 a.m. on April 24, the Prime Minister, the President, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Catholicos of All Armenians will visit the Tsitsernakaberd 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 6 a.m. on April 25.
Deputy Mayor of Yerevan Tigran Virabyan also added that, starting at 8 a.m. on April 24, those with an Armenian cell phone number can send a text message to “1915” to confirm their participation in the commemoration in the evening. Those from other countries can text 0037433191500. The names of people who have sent messages will be projected onto the columns of the Memorial. It will be possible to send in a maximum of five names from the same number. Virabyan said it would be preferable if the names are written in the Armenia alphabet and that any writing with promotional content will not be accepted. The text messages will symbolically cost one dram. Virabyan said the telecommunication companies were more than ready to forgo the cost of the messages but due to legislative requirements it was not possible to make the texts completely free of charge.
Amending the Tax Code
During a press conference, Head of the State Revenue Committee (SRC) Davit Ananyan spoke about the amendments that were made to Armenia’s Tax Code, why they were made, and how they will positively impact taxpayers. Ananyan reminded that yesterday’s special session of parliament voted in favor of a draft bill tabled by Mikayel Melkumyan from the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), proposing to reduce tax delay fines imposed on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to the existing regulations, taxpayers must pay a 0.075% fine on overdue payments each day. With the proposed changes, the percentage was reduced to 0.04% for each day. The threshold for placing a line on property was increased from 500,000 AMD to 1.5 million AMD.
Article 398 of the Tax Code stipulates that, if the unpaid tax liability exceeds the 200,000 AMD threshold, then administrative proceedings are launched, and if the liability is less than 200,000 AMD, proceedings are not initiated to collect the unpaid taxes. Ananyan explained that the SRC assures that if the unpaid tax liability does not exceed the 1.5 million AMD, then a restraint on property will not be placed and administrative proceedings for collecting those taxes will not be launched. Ananyan went on to explain that the previous 0.075% daily fine on overdue payments amounts to a 27.4% annual percentage rate (APR), while with the proposed 0.04%/day is equivalent to 14.6% APR. These two changes, which have already been adopted, will significantly reduce pressure on taxpayers.
Ananyan also clarified that the recommendations to reduce the interest rate and increase the threshold for placing a restraint was discussed by the Government and as part of the plan aimed at addressing the economic consequences of COVID-19. However, because Mikayel Melkumyan also proposed similar changes, it was decided to support the proposed amendment package as a collaboration between the Government and Opposition. Ananyan clarified that there is no difference for the Government on how a specific mechanism, aimed at addressing the concerns of taxpayers, is introduced, as long as it effectively and efficiently provides relief. The bill will affect overdue payments that have been incurred since April 21.
The Head of the SRC said that, because the changes were introduced and adopted within days, the Committee has not had the time to implement software changes in its automated systems but plans to do so within the next month and a half months. Ananyan urged taxpayers not to worry if they notice that a fine on overdue payment is calculated with the previous 0.075%. He assured that, after the software changes are completed, all the overdue payments will be recalculated with the approved 0.04%.
During the Government session, Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan provided updates regarding the COVID-19 situation in the country. He said that 50 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases to 1523, of which 840 are active; 26 people have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 659. To date, 24 people have died after contracting COVID-19. Speaking about the overall condition of the patients, Torosyan informed that 10 patients are in critical condition, over 200 have pneumonia, five patients are on ventilators, one of whom is a 27-year-old patient with pre-existing chronic health issues. Torosyan said doctors are doing everything they can to stabilize her condition and he hopes that it will be possible to save her life. The Minister said that the growth rate of cases has not changed and that bed capacity is still sufficient to hospitalize all the patients who test positive for the virus. He also said that those with light symptoms are being kept in hotels.
Considering that restrictions on new forms of economic activity were lifted by the decision of the Special Commission, Torosyan stressed the importance of following the guidelines. The Minister also provided updates on the situation in Armenia’s neighbouring countries. Speaking about the situation in Iran, he said that the number of new confirmed cases as well as deaths is declining every day. Torosyan noted that it seems that the country is gradually getting back to normal, restrictions are being eased and the number of new cases are declining. Restrictions are also being eased in European countries, but there is an ongoing debate on whether easing the restrictions will result in a second wave of infection.
Tigran Avinyan, the Warden of the Special Commission and Deputy Prime Minister, reminded that based on the Commission’s decision, restrictions on certain forms of activities were lifted in the following industries:
– processing manufacturing;
– wholesale, retail, car and motorcycle repair;
– information and communications;
– real estate and specialized/professional scientific and technical work;
– service sector.
Avinyan said that the restrictions on interregional movement have been lifted and that the checkpoints set in designated areas will be removed. If needed, movement restrictions will be introduced and communities, where there is an increased risk for the spread of virus, will be placed under lockdown. Avinyan noted that, as promised, the government is moving forward with a step-by-step approach. The spread of the virus is under control, and if the current trend continues, restrictions on more forms of economic activity will be lifted very soon.
During the session, the government discussed and adopted the fourteenth assistance package that targets students and is aimed at mitigating the economic consequences of COVID-19. Arayik Harutyunyan, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, presented the package. The Minister explained that the beneficiaries of this program are divided into three groups. The first group includes post-secondary students in their final year of study at universities identified by the decision and who have maintained a 90% average. For these students, tuition fees for the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year will be fully compensated by the state. The second group includes all post-secondary students who are not in their final year and who have maintained a 90% average. For these students, 70% of their tuition for the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year will be compensated by the state. And the final, third group includes students studying at public and state- accredited universities (including distance education students) who have student loans. The interest on student loans taken between May 1 and December 31, 2020 will be fully subsidized by the state for those students who have maintained an 80% average. The interest rate for students whose average grade is less than 80% will be 4% (the remaining 5% will be subsidized by the state).
Artur Javadyan, Governor of the Central Bank, noted that the process to acquire student loans has been simplified and it is expected that more students will apply for loans after the new assistance package is introduced.
Update on Number of Cases
According to the Ministry of Health, 50 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Armenia, bringing the total number of cases to 1523, of which 840 are active; 26 people have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 659. No patient died in the last 24 hours; the number of deaths in the country stands at 24.
Some Restrictions Lifted
By the decision of the Special Commission, starting at 11:59 p.m. on April 22, a number of restrictions on movement and economic activity have been lifted.
The restriction on inter-regional movement has been lifted and all checkpoints will be removed. Additional supervision will be applied at certain high risk communities. The restrictions on the freedom of movement of individuals and public transportation remain unchanged.
Restrictions on a number of kinds of economic activity have been lifted.
- Production of pesticides and other agrochemicals
- Stone cutting, processing and carving/finishing
- Production of metal construction structures
- Manufacturing of electrical wiring devices
- Repair of finished metal products, machines and equipment
- Installation of industrial machines and equipment
Wholesale, retail, car and motorcycle repair:
Wholesale of agricultural machinery, equipment and spare parts
Wholesale of machinery for mining, construction and civil construction
Certain kinds of non-specialized retail
Information and communications:
- Book publishing
- Production, post production and publication/distribution of television programs
Real estate and specialized/professional scientific and technical work
- Technical tests and analysis
- Scientific research and experimental development in the field of natural and technical sciences
Administrative and related sectors:
- Administrative and related activities for businesses and companies whose activities are not suspended
Services and other sectors:
- Labor unions
- Repair of computers and other communication devices
- Repair of household electronic devices
- Repair of household items and gardening equipment
The Special Commission has set sanitary epidemiological safety rules for certain kinds of activity like the textile industry, manufacturing of clothes, shoes, electronic devices, furniture production, certain kinds of sports clubs, as well as a number of individual cases which could be exempt from the restrictions.