Special Parliament Session
Tigran Avinyan, the Warden of the Special Commission, presented the Government’s decision to extend the State of Emergency (SOE) for another 30 days. According to that decision, the SOE will be in force until August 12, at 5 p.m.
Avinyan briefly spoke about the situation in the northeastern Tavush region and stressed that the provocations and diversion attempts by the Azerbaijani side are impermissible especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic keeps spreading in the world. He went on to say that the political leadership of Azerbaijan is the only one responsible for the losses of the Azerbaijani side, escalation of the situation in the region and overall instability. In the meantime, the Armenian Armed Forces stand firmly at their posts, continue performing their duties and effectively suppressing any provocative action. Avinyan urged the public to show maximum responsibility, considering the information warfare that is currently taking place, read and share information from official sources only.
Speaking about the Government’s decision to extend the SOE for the fourth time, Avinyan noted that it should be a sign for everyone to take the situation more seriously and a reason to evaluate our collective behaviour and draw conclusions. The risks for declaring a State of Emergency have not been eliminated and the COVID-19 situation in the country remains concerning but manageable from a healthcare perspective. But without the legal regime of the SOE, it would be challenging for the Government to monitor citizens’ compliance with the existing sanitary rules and regulations. Avinyan said that the Government hopes that there will not be a need to further extend the SOE but they are currently working on legislation in case of a different scenario.
Avinyan reminded that since the outbreak of coronavirus, Armenia has registered 31,151 cases of COVID-19, of which 11,530 are active cases, 19,865 have already recovered, and 573 have died. As of July 12, 546 patients are in critical condition, 111 in extremely critical and 43 are on ventilators. Over 10,000 patients are receiving treatment in their homes. Avinyan also said that with the efforts of the Special Commission and the Foreign Ministry, over 8,000 citizens of Armenia were transferred to Armenia from different parts of the world since March 15. The transfer of about 2,200 of them was organized for free. Overall, 40,000 Armenians returned to Armenia since the outbreak.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued spreading, Armenia’s healthcare sector kept increasing its capacity to ensure that all those in need of treatment were hospitalized. Since March, over 2,500 hospital beds were allocated for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, 300 of which were ICU beds. Currently, coronavirus patients are being treated in 19 medical centers across Armenia (seven in the regions and twelve in the capital Yerevan). Training of healthcare workers was also a part of the Government efforts to expand the capacity of the healthcare sector. Since the outbreak, over 5,680 medical personnel have participated in trainings to improve their skills in treating COVID-19 patients. Another 2,270 medics participated in more specialized international and local webinars. As of July 6, 46 nurses, epidemiologists, anesthesiologists and ICU specialists arrived in Armenia from abroad to assist their Armenian colleagues in the fight against coronavirus (one from Germany, eighteen from France, five from Russia, eleven from Lithuania and another eleven medics from Italy).
Speaking about the country’s testing capacity, Avinyan noted that when COVID-19 first started spreading Armenia was equipped to conduct up to 300 tests daily. In May, this number grew to 1,000 tests daily and since June when the healthcare sector was sufficiently extended, between 2,000 and 2,800 tests are conducted daily. To date, 135,687 tests have been conducted. Avinyan noted that the locally produced PCR tests were a major factor in expanding the country’s testing capacity. Armenia’s Institute of Molecular Biology has already produced over 8,000 PCR tests, which were already transferred to the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. At this point, it is expected that the Institute will produce about 100,000 PCR tests. Four special flights were organized from China to transfer medical supplies and equipment needed for the fight against the coronavirus, including ventilators, oxygen supply stations and concentrators, diagnostic tests, and personal protective equipment.
Avinyan stressed that the fight against the pandemic cannot be effective only with the efforts of the healthcare sector and that the compliance with the anti-epidemic guidelines plays a critical role. He went on to say that the Government’s decision to require citizens to wear face masks a few weeks ago, was based on the scientific evidence available at that point. Now, there are many studies confirming the efficiency of face masks in protecting people from being infected or spreading the virus. Avinyan stressed that public discipline and compliance with the rules is still not satisfactory and police reports about the violations of the anti-epidemic guidelines is one indicator of that. To date, police have filed over 81,000 reports on administrative violations for not wearing a face mask or failure to have an ID when outside. Inspection bodies continue conducting regular monitoring to ensure the compliance of business entities with the sanitary and anti-epidemic rules. Avinyan noted that based on the number of reports filed by inspection officers, it is possible to claim that business entities mostly comply with the set rules. To date, 48,595 reports of administrative violations were filed against business entities and the activities of 4,372 were restricted based on those reports. But the number of violations registered per day has decreased. For example, 58 reports were filed on July 9, while exactly a month ago the number of filed reports was 149.
Avinyan also spoke about the Government’s strategy moving forward and noted that based on the analysis of a group of researchers assisting the Special Commission, as of June 28 the reproduction rate of the virus is 0.8 and continues decreasing. [The reproduction rate of the virus is the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population.] According to researchers, some of the requirements introduced by the Government helped to achieve this number. If the Government maintains this tendency, then by the beginning of September the number of confirmed cases per day will be about 140.
As the COVID-19 situation in the country keeps developing, the Government is altering its strategy and considering different scenarios. Although the current strategic approach is based on co-existence and decreasing the spread of the virus by following the set rules, alternative solutions, such as strictly restricting people’s movement, are also being considered. Avinyan noted that when the reproduction rate of the virus was above 1, the Special Commission seriously considered introducing a curfew and stricter rules. The scenario that the Government considered, at some point, was to introduce restrictions for a 10-week-long period, and it was expected that within the mentioned period there would be restrictions on certain forms of economic activity and inter-regional movement. According to the discussed scenario, during weekends all forms of economic activities and all forms of movement would be forbidden. Avinyan, noted that implementing such restrictions for a 10-week-long period would have significantly reduced the reproduction rate of the virus and ensured that Armenia has only a few dozen new confirmed cases per day. Implementation of this scenario, however, would have had devastating consequences for Armenia’s economy (the estimated impact was expected to be equal to 0.8% of Armenia’s GDP).
Avinyan explained that considering the devastating economic consequences of this scenario and that Armenia’s healthcare sector managed to sufficiently expand its capacity, were among the major reasons that allowed the Government to not implement this scenario. He went on to say that nothing can be ruled out and if the healthcare sector is no longer able to provide adequate treatment to all those who need it, the Government will reconsider the implementation of such scenarios. Avinyan called on citizens to follow the rules because it is only with their help that the Government will be able to overcome the pandemic.
Special Government Session
During the Government session, Arsen Torosyan, Health Minister provided updates regarding the COVID-19 situation. Over 759 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 32,151. Torosyan noted that the low number of cases (182) that were confirmed during the last 24 hours is explained by the low number of tests conducted on Sunday (which has been the case during the past several weeks). Over 650 patients are in extremely critical or critical condition and 43 are on ventilators. Although almost all the beds in the intensive care units are occupied, the situation with the usual hospital beds and beds attached to medical oxygen is stable. As of today, there are no patients who are at home awaiting hospitalization and only one patient, who is at a hospital needs to be transferred to a specialized medical facility handling COVID-19 patients (for comparison, last week , over 20 patients needed to be transferred to a specialized hospital). Torosyan stressed that it is important to extend the State of Emergency (SOE) for at least another month and make new decisions, if the situation starts stabilizing.
The Government discussed and unanimously approved extending the SOE, which was declared on March 16 and extended until July 13, for an additional 30 days, until August 12, at 5 p.m. Rustam Badasyan, the Justice Minister, noted that the numbers presented by the Health Minister show that the circumstances that were the basis for declaring a State of Emergency have not been eliminated within the specified period. This is already the fourth time that the SOE has been extended (the SOE was extended on April 13, then on May 14 and the last one on June 12). Badasyan also noted that by the decision to extend the SOE for another month, it has been clarified that citizens who are required to self-isolate will be ordered to do so verbally, but the order can also be provided in a written form, per their request. Also, by the decision, those citizens who are required to self-isolate but need to go to a medical center or polyclinic for laboratory or diagnostic testing can do so and it will not be perceived as violating the rules of self-isolation.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan clarified that if the Government does not extend the SOE, all the anti-epidemic rules and guidelines will de jure lose their force. He went on to say that the Government understands that it cannot keep extending the SOE and currently is working on a draft legislation which will allow the Government to enforce the current restrictions not only during a state of emergency but also during an emergency situation. Pashinyan noted that when the coronavirus outbreak just started spreading in March, the Government could not have anticipated that such a legislation would be needed at some point. Badasyan said that all those rights that are restricted during the SOE, can also be restricted with the legislation that is currently being developed, but to a lesser extent. He went on to say that it remains to be seen whether it would be possible to keep the situation under control with a little less strict measures.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 and 232 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 32,151 of which 11,530 are active cases and 19,865 have already recovered. Eight COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 59 and the oldest 83), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 573. Another patient with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 183 such cases have been reported. To date, 135,687 tests have been conducted, of which 698 were in the last 24 hours.
Situation in Artsakh
The Ministry of Health of Artsakh reported one new case of COVID-19 and one recovery, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 148, of which 28 are active cases and 120 have already recovered. To date, 2,898 tests have been conducted and 86 people are in isolation. Two of the patients are in critical condition. Another patient is in critical, but stable condition.
Situation in Artsakh
The Ministry of Health of Artsakh reported one new case of COVID-19 bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 147, of which 28 are active cases and 119 have already recovered. To date, 2,707 tests have been conducted and 84 people are in isolation.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 577 new cases of COVID-19 and 214 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 31,969 of which 11,589 are active cases and 19,633 have already recovered. Six COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 37 and the oldest 87), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 565. Two other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 182 such cases have been reported. To date, 134,989 tests have been conducted, of which 1,885 were in the last 24 hours.
A New Morgue Under Construction
Alina Nikoghosyan, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, said in a Facebook post that a new morgue is being built in Armenia, where it will be possible to perform autopsies on those who have died because of COVID-19. It is expected that the morgue will start operations on August 1. As a reminder, on March 31, the National Assembly voted in favor of amending the law “On Medical Assistance and Public Services,” which proposed to not perform autopsies on the deceased who have tested positive for COVID-19, in an effort to contain the further spread of the virus.
Emergency Situation Extended in Artsakh
By the decree of Arayik Harutyunyan, the President of Artsakh, the Emergency Situation was extended in Artsakh for 32 days, until August 12, at 10 p.m. The SOE in Artsakh was declared on April 12 and was extended until July 11.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 489 new cases of COVID-19 and 710 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 31,392 of which 11,234 are active cases and 19,419 have already recovered. Thirteen COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 59 and the oldest 95), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 559. Three other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 180 such cases have been reported. To date, 133,104 tests have been conducted, of which 1,888 were in the last 24 hours.
Government Approves Centralized Management During SOE
The Government approved the proposed amendments to the Law on the Legal Regime of the State of Emergency, which allows a centralized management of the healthcare system in the event of a State of Emergency (SOE). According to the new legislative initiative during a SOE the Government will be authorized to transfer the management of all medical centers of the Republic of Armenia to the Ministry of Health, regardless of the affiliation and ownership of the medical institutions.
Germany To Send Medics to Armenia
The German Embassy in Armenia, announced in a Facebook post that due to the cooperation among the European Union, Germany and Armenia, the German International Search and Rescue Center (ISRC) will send a group of medics to Armenia in the coming days. The group which will consist of doctors, nurses and emergency experts, will support Armenia’s efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assistance From the Netherlands
Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands decided to allocate 200,000 euros to Armenia for acquiring medical equipment needed for the fight against the coronavirus. According to the agreement signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Armenia’s Health Ministry on July 9, the assistance will be used to purchase three PCR testing devices, 100 hospital monitors and one biological safety camera from Armenian companies. The Health Ministry has already ordered the above-mentioned medical equipment, which will be delivered very soon.
Assistance From Yerevan Municipality
According to the decision of the Mayor of Yerevan, 100 million AMD will be allocated from the Municipality’s bonus fund to medical staff working in polyclinics and medical centers under the purview of city administration that are part of the network of medical facilities treating COVID-19 patients.
Situation in Artsakh
The Ministry of Health of Artsakh reported four new cases of COVID-19 and three recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 146, of which 30 are active cases and 116 have already recovered. The Ministry also reported that two new infection hubs in Stepanakert and Martakert. To date, 2,522 tests have been conducted and 77 people are in isolation. One of the patients, who has chronic diseases and pneumonia, remains in critical condition. Another patient is in critical, but stable condition. The rest are in stable condition.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 557 new cases of COVID-19 and 709 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 30,903 of which 11,471 are active cases and 18,709 have already recovered. Eleven COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 51 and the oldest 93), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 546. Seven other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 177 such cases have been reported. To date, 131,216 tests have been conducted, of which 2,050 were in the last 24 hours.