Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke first:
- COVID-19 numbers in Armenia are once again showing signs of stability.
- Thanks to the efforts of the Special Commission, the Health Ministry and law enforcement, this stabilization has allowed the health system to catch up.
- The hospital bed backlog is subsiding day-by-day. If the trend holds, we can solve the issue of hospitalization and move to the next phase of defeating the virus.
- Our main tool is still adherence to the safety rules.
- We can now say that the majority of citizens are wearing masks and following the rules. However, only today, as of 3 p.m., 1800 citizens have been fined for not wearing masks. We still do not have the desired results.
- It is not our aim to fine citizens; our aim is to send a strong message that monitoring of safety measures will increasingly be reinforced. Our hope is that citizens will follow the rules not because they want to avoid being fined but because they understand the necessity of doing so.
- Funerals remain one of our main challenges. They continue to draw crowds and lead to safety rule violations. Measures are being put in place to make sure local authorities can oversee that funerals are organized in accordance with safety measures.
- Underground weddings also continue to be a concern. The happiness of the new couple should not be stained with the death of a relative because of their wedding, a scenario which has already played out.
Petros Manukyan, Deputy Director of St. Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, who is working with patients that are in critical or extremely critical condition, spoke next:
- For two months, St. Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center has been treating COVID-19 patients who are in critical and extremely critical condition. Most of these patients have pre-existing health conditions, which are further complicated by the virus and its symptoms.
- Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the number of patients who are in critical or extremely critical condition and the hospital has been overloaded. Some of the patients that are accepted to the hospital with only mild symptoms later experience shortness of breath, anxiety and other more serious symptoms of COVID-19. Such developments have become quite common since it is difficult to predict how the virus will progress in the human body.
- The healthcare workers are doing everything to ensure that patients in critical and extremely critical condition receive the treatment they need, in accordance with the international standards.
As a military doctor, Manukyan said that the current situation reminds him of wartime, where healthcare workers are working day and night to save lives. In order to win this war, it is critical to realize the urgency of the situation and follow the guidelines introduced by the Government. Preventive measures are our only option until there is a vaccine or other more effective methods for treating the virus.
Lena Nanushyan, Deputy Minister of Health:
- COVID-19 is a new kind of a virus and there are many uncertainties regarding not only the spread of the virus but also its treatment. We have not only been able to organize the treatment of patients and take care of the safety of our citizens, but have also learned about the disease, drawing from our own experience and our international partners.
- As we learn, we adopt new strategies and try to make our fight more effective.
- We managed to acquire testing kits in the beginning of February and have since considerably expanded our testing capacity with the aim of being able to help patients as early on as possible and curbing the spread of the virus through contact tracing.
- We will continue to further expand our testing capacity, despite it being a complicated process in need of not only test kits but also specialties and technology.
- Everyone who has symptoms (a cough or high temperature) should contact their health provider, who will guide them through the process of testing, hospitalization (if needed), treatment at home and, if after 14 days of self-isolation the patient has not developed symptoms, the patient will be considered recovered.
- At a time when we have not ten but hundreds of new cases each day, we should not only be wearing masks but also demand that others do so as well.
Yerkir.am, Anna Balyan: The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) believes that the Government’s actions aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19 have been ineffective. The ARF demands that the National Assembly schedule a special session with the Government to discuss ways to address the current situation and hold all officials, including the PM, who have failed during this period to account. Is Nikol Pashinyan willing to participate in such a session for the benefit of public health?
Nikol Pashinyan: The National Assembly has already held three sessions with the members of Government to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the country and discussions are ongoing within the Government. The ARF has been demanding the resignation of the current Government since the summer of 2018, so there is nothing new about this. There is an impression that coronavirus is not just affecting the healthcare sector but also the country’s political sector. I believe that some political forces are digging their own political graves and they will be pushed out of Armenia’s political life after the coronavirus. Some of those who compare the current COVID-19 situation in the country with a war say that, if the commander-in-chief fails during a war, then he should resign. Today, Armenia has registered better results than some of the most developed countries around the world, which have more advanced infrastructure and resources. But unlike Armenia, the “political bacteria” is not spreading in those countries. And if we choose to draw parallels between the current situation and a war, we should also start considering what to do with those who create unnecessary panic among the people during wartime, spread disinformation and act against the orders of the commander-in-chief. During wartime, such people are punished in accordance with the rules. But Armenia is a democractic country and we will not resort to such measures.
NewArmenia.am, Dikranuhi Martirosyan: There are people doubting the existence of COVID-19 not only in Armenia but across the world. People in Georgia as well as parts of Russia are also highly skeptical. Other than information drives, are there other initiatives that you are planning to carry out in the regions to raise public awareness?
Nikol Pashinyan: The whole world is struggling with understanding coronavirus and we too are often faced with dilemmas and unknowns when it comes to the virus, what it is and how to deal with it. I, as a person who has been infected, still have these dilemmas. However, we know for certain that we are facing a dangerous pandemic, that there are vulnerable groups – people with chronic illnesses and the elderly – and we should do our utmost to protect them.
The world continues to study this virus and I hope a vaccine will be developed in the near future. Some specialists say the vaccine might never be found; therefore, I trust that our strategy to learn to live with the virus is the right strategy. As long as this virus exists in the world, even if we get to a point where we have zero patients, as soon as we open up the country, we might find out that we are even less protected. This strategy affords us the option of not only keeping the pandemic under control but also prepares us for possible waves in the autumn, winter and spring of next year. If we follow this path, by next year we will have created an immunity barrier to a certain extent, which will allow us to be more protected.
By overcoming this crisis, we will also have accomplished something more: We will have changed our behavior in regards to following rules that are in place and our health system will become strengthened to no longer be a weak link in the governance sector. Let no one start evaluating the response to COVID-19 before it is eliminated. When we defeat this virus, then we can sit down and count the losses and the accomplishments.
State of Emergency Violations
The Tashir Mall in Yerevan has been ordered to close today by a decision of the Special Commission. The Mall will stay closed for 24 hours after a number of breaches of safety rules were discovered. The common areas were not disinfected, physical distancing rules were ignored at the gold market and information announcements were not placed as required.
Two kindergartens were also shut down today for three days, one in the Erebuni district of Yerevan and the other in Shengavit. The breaches in safety measures included the lack of hot running water, lack of garbage cans with lids and insufficient measures to ensure the disinfection of cutlery, plates and bed sheets.
To date, 26,490 violations of the State of Emergency rules have been registered by the police, 747 of which were registered on June 9.
Lithuania and Estonia Aid Armenia
The Lithuanian government will be sending a team of doctors to Armenia to help in the fight against COVID-19, as announced by the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, Linas Antanas Linkevičius. “Armenia continues an intense fight against the pandemic. Lithuania continues standing by our Armenian friends. Today Lithuanian Government decided to send a medical team and experts to Armenia aimed at helping to combat covid19,” he wrote on Twitter.
On April 22, Linkevičius had announced that Lithuania will allocate €100,000 toward sending medical supplies made by Lithuanian companies as humanitarian assistance to Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. On May 14, a Lithuanian military aircraft delivered 10,600 protective face shields to Armenia.
President Armen Sarkissian held a phone conversation with the President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid and thanked Estonia for donating €30,000 to the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), which will be channeled toward acquiring medical equipment for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another Child Diagnosed With Kawasaki Syndrome
In response to a question by ArmDaily.am, Health Ministry spokesperson Alina Nikoghosyan confirmed that Armenia has registered a second case of Kawasaki Syndrome. Nikoghosyan said the child is nine years old and has been admitted to hospital in critical condition; however, there are already signs of improvement.
Nikoghosyan also said that the first child who was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome on June 3 has already recovered. At the time, Arsen Torosyan, the Health Minister said in a Facebook post that other countries had recorded a recent increase in the number of children with Kawasaki syndrome, which some researchers say is connected with the COVID-19 pandemic. The cause of the syndrome is not fully known but it is mainly associated with the body’s autoimmune response to infectious diseases. It is most common among children under five years old.
The Minister said that, considering the international statistics, the Ministry has acquired expensive immunoglobulin drugs specifically for the treatment of this syndrome. He once again urged everyone to follow the anti-epidemic rules, wear a face mask, wash/disinfect hands. He went on to say that it is necessary to limit all discretionary contact with one another to break the transmission chains of the virus.
Regional Governors on COVID-19 Situation in Their Regions
Hambardzum Matevosyan, the Regional Governor of Armavir, provided updates on the COVID-19 situation in the region and said that, to date, over 814 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed; about half of the infected patients have already recovered and 21 have died. The Regional Governor said that the growth of COVID-19 cases in the region remains stable. According to him, Tandzut and Parakar are the two communities where a significant number of cases were confirmed and, if needed, further restrictions will be imposed on these two specific communities. Matevosyan said that the employees of local self-government bodies, along with police officers, continue to conduct regular monitoring and report administrative violations. The Mayor also said that, if needed, the medical centers in Vagharshapat, Metsamor and Armavir City will also allocate beds for COVID-19 patients.
Garik Sargsyan, the Regional Governor of Ararat, informed that a total of 1,165 residents of the region have tested positive for COVID-19. 474 of them have already recovered and 17 have died. Most of the reported cases were confirmed in the city of Masis. He went on to say that the situation in Ararat remains under control and that patients with no symptoms or very mild symptoms are being monitored by local polyclinics. Medical centers in Artashat and Vedi have also started treating COVID-19 patients.
Gnel Sanosyan, the Regional Governor of Gegharkunik, said that 683 cases were confirmed in the region, of which 340 are active cases, 400 have already recovered and 13 have died. He noted that the situation remains under control.
Hayk Chobanyan, the Regional Governor of Tavush confirmed that, to date, 133 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the region; 26 of the infected patients are receiving treatment in medical centers, three are in critical condition, and eight have died. He noted that the ongoing monitoring activities have shown that most residents are complying with the rules set by the Special Commission. Because the region is among Armenia’s most popular tourist destinations, the Regional Governor said that, during non-working days, they actively conduct monitoring activities to avoid violations of the rules. Speaking about the production of face masks in the region, Santrosyan said that they are able to produce 10 million face masks every month and that the capacity is expected to increase.
Romanos Petrosyan, the Regional Governor of Kotayk, said that, to date, over 1,300 residents of the region have tested positive for COVID-19. Most of them have already recovered and about 20 have died. He noted that medical centers in the region do not treat COVID-19 patients but have the capacity to provide primary care until patients are transferred to hospitals specialized to treat COVID-19 patients.
Tigran Petrosyan, the Regional Governor of Shirak, informed that 490 residents of the region have tested positive for COVID-19, of which 200 have already recovered and ten have died. Over 700 people are currently in quarantine. The Regional Governor noted that cases were confirmed in two factories in Gyumri and that they are working to contain the spread of the virus. Currently, 70 coronavirus patients are being treated in Gyumri.
Update on the Situation in Artsakh
Artsakh’s Health Ministry reported that two COVID-19 patients have recovered. The two citizens came from Russia and were quarantined upon their arrival. To date, 64 people have tested positive for the virus, 43 of whom have already recovered; two patients who also have other chronic diseases are in critical condition. Seventy-three people continue to remain in quarantine and 1,224 tests have been conducted to date.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 428 new cases of COVID-19 and 775 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 14,103, of which 8,573 are active cases and 5,226 have already recovered. Ten COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 54 and the oldest 93), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 227. Three other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 77 such cases have been reported. To date, 73,156 tests have been conducted, of which 1,751 were in the last 24 hours.