By the decision of the Special Commission, 152 businesses were forced to suspend their activities for 24 hours for violating safety guidelines. The activities of two business entities were suspended for 72 hours.
PM Nikol Pashinyan Addresses Parliament
Addressing the Special Session of the National Assembly of Armenia called following the government’s decision to extend the State of Emergency (SOE) by another month, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted that the reason why the SOE was implemented in March persists as COVID-19 continues to spread. Medical centers are working under extreme pressure, he said adding that 1,551 of the 1857 beds designated for COVID-19 patients and 204 of the 239 ICU beds are currently in use.
Pashinyan said the situation remains critical even as the government continues to expand healthcare capacity. However, the main problem continues to be public behavior rather than healthcare capacity and the solution lies in changing mindsets and public behavior.
The only way to deal with a virus that may or may not have a vaccine, a pandemic that is predicted to persist from a year to up to five years is to be guided by “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” motto. We have to learn to live with the pandemic, Pashinyan said, a concept that many find strange but humanity has time and again adjusted its behavior to natural and man-made situations to survive. After the invention of cars, humanity created a set of rules and infrastructure and learned to live in a world with motorized vehicles and yet, many in Armenia still continue to jaywalk, ignore red lights.
Pashinyan said that everyone must learn to live by new rules otherwise, the problems will increase. He noted that during the lockdown, Armenia did not achieve the same results as other countries because the lockdown in Armenia was only visible on major streets, squares and malls and did not “reach” courtyards and residential communities.
Once again, the Prime Minister said that if the situation doesn’t improve, the country will be forced to return to a total lockdown. If we sustain the daily numbers of 550-600 new cases, the healthcare system will be able to carry the burden. However, if the numbers increase substantially, a total lockdown will be the only viable option, which will devastate the economy.
Pashinyan, again, stated the need to start an anti-pandemic movement in Armenia and noted that today must be the starting point when each person takes on personal responsibility. “I myself, as someone who has clearly not followed the rules promptly or else would not have been infected, declare that from here on I will follow the rules with no exceptions and call on all citizens to follow my example,” he said. He said that an environment must be created where not following the rules is frowned upon: “I confess, I do not have any other solution than the belief which has guided me throughout my political career, and that belief has a mathematical formula, 1+1+1+1… equals hundreds of thousands, equals millions.”
During a special session, the Government discussed and voted in favor of extending the State of Emergency (SOE) for one more month. Anahit Avanesyan, the Deputy Minister of Health presented the COVID-19 situation in the country. She said that during the past 24 hours, 173 patients recovered, 13 people died and 612 new cases were confirmed (2297 tests were conducted). Over 7,000 patients are being treated in their homes, while the remaining 1,800 are in specialized medical centers. Speaking about the condition of patients, Avanesyan said that 425 are in critical condition, 100 in extremely critical condition and 23 are on ventilators.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan explained that the results that we have today are the reflection of how well people followed the anti-epidemic guidelines within the last seven to fourteen days. He noted that when a decrease in the number of confirmed cases is reported, people start disobeying the rules, which is a serious challenge. Pashinyan stressed that the Police and the inspection bodies will continue to conduct regular monitoring and report administrative violations, but the first priority is to ensure that the behaviour of every single person has changed. He went on to say that the number of confirmed cases affects the number of patients who die and the number of those who are in critical and extremely critical condition. Pashinyan stressed the importance of communicating this message to people until the number of confirmed cases starts decreasing. He also said that it is important to start developing mechanisms that will help the Government to identify those who spread disinformation about coronavirus.
Rustam Badasyan, the Justice Minister presented the Government’s proposal to extend the SOE for another month, which was declared on March 16 [the SOE has already been extended twice]. He noted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country keeps increasing and as of June 11, 14,669 such cases were reported. Since March 16, 14,639 cases were confirmed, which is sufficient grounds for extending the SOE until 5 p.m. on July 13.
Badasyan said that with the new decision, the requirement to have a list of countries that are in critical epidemiological situation will be lifted, leaving it to the Ministry of Health to determine as the situation progresses. Also, with the new decision it is prohibited to organize public events in the territory of Armenia; exceptions will be made by the decision of the Special Commission. According to the previous regulations, it was prohibited to organize public events in designated areas. With the new decision, specific restrictions for different business entities were further clarified.
Torosyan Speaks to Journalists
Speaking with journalists after a parliamentary hearing, Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said despite much attention being directed towards expanding the capacity of the healthcare system to be able to accomodate more COVID-19 patients, this alone will not solve the issue. He said more efforts should be directed towards suppressing the spread of coronavirus and changing public behavior be it through new rules for targeted groups, reviewed safety rules for businesses and maybe even restrictions on certain domains. The toolset is quite limited, it is either restrictions or imposing safety rules however what the rules entail is secondary to how diligently they are followed, he said.
According to the Minister, it is also very hard to estimate the effect of the rules, hard to tell if today instead of the 612 new cases Armenia would have had 800 if masks had not been made mandatory.
Torosyan said it is not safe to be optimistic yet even as it was estimated that Armenia would pass the 15,000 threshold on June 9 but instead hit that number on June 12, which is a positive indication. However, this is still a huge number for Armenia and even with an additional 100 ICU beds for critical and extremely critical patients, whose chances for recovery are less, Armenia’s mortality rate is going to increase.
Speaking about the polyclinics (primary healthcare system), which are now tasked with the care of COVID-19 patients who are in recovery at home, Torosyan said the polyclinics which are either under the purview of municipal governments or the Ministry of Territorial Administration have been neglected for years and it is not easy for them to take on such an important function. For this reason, there are shortcomings both in the general response of the polyclinics and the individual responses of doctors.
Torosyan said ten doctors are expected to arrive in Armenia tomorrow from France, Lithuanian doctors will also be arriving in a week, there are also about 50 doctors from the Russian Federation who have expressed willingness to work in Armenia. The Ministry is also in talks with the European office of the World Health Organization to organize the visit of a special crisis management team to Armenia, it will either be the team from Poland or Israel.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 612 new cases of COVID-19 and 173 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 15,281, of which 9,298 are active cases and 5,639 have already recovered. Thirteen COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 59 and the oldest 85), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 258. Four other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 86 such cases have been reported. To date, 77,686 tests have been conducted, of which 2297 were in the last 24 hours.
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