Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan presented the daily briefing on his own today. He thanked all those who are following the safety rules and have become activists of the anti-pandemic movement on social media and on the streets. Pashinyan said he is happy to see the new sentiments:
- Law enforcement will continue to work alongside the government to ensure compliance with the rules and news that has been circulating that fines registered by the police to date will be canceled are false.
- Officers in civilian clothing will also be dispatched, their job will be to invite nearby uniformed officers to register the violations.
- Analysis of the data has shown that the virus is spreading primarily in clusters of the same or neighboring addresses, meaning communal courtyards.
- Police have also been surveilling communal courtyards over the last several days and will continue to do so.
- A number of NGOs with more than 1500 members have put together anti-pandemic teams, each composed of two people.
- Civic activists who join the anti-pandemic movement can also contact the government for assistance if need be (or if they wish to receive facemasks to distribute to people) and should call the police if they see a persistent violation.
Pashinyan also said he was happy to see the positive response to his Facebook Live earlier in the day (See section below).
Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company, Irina Mkrtchyan: Very soon Armenia will start the export of agricultural products, mainly to countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Considering that agricultural products spoil quickly, are there plans to introduce an accelerated process to avoid possible delays at border crossings?
Nikol Pashinyan: Our custom checkpoints have already reviewed their regulations to ensure that any delays are avoided. Armenia is in regular contact with its Russian and Georgian partners and we also have our representative at the Upper Lars checkpoint. There are no concerns at this point and I hope that we will be able to effectively regulate the process.
Panorama.am, Lala Ter-Ghazaryan: You often blame the citizens for the situation and consider that the actions of the government have been comprehensive and timely. A few days ago, Health Minister Arsen Torosyan confessed that mistakes have been made. Is there data showing to what extent these mistakes had an effect on the situation at hand?
Nikol Pashinyan: I do not blame citizens, I try to help them and to help myself and the Government to better understand the complexity of our situation. Our aim is to diagnose the problem so that we are able to solve it. And yes, during the sessions of the Special Commission, we do discuss the absence of coordination in the actions of the Government and work to eliminate them, to make sure the system works in full force and with maximum efficiency.
My main thesis remains unchanged – this issue can only be solved through elaborate government-society collaboration. Our main advantage, and maybe also our biggest disadvantage, is that our actions are 100% transparent. It is not our aim to hide or disguise our failures or mistakes in any way. As for blaming the citizens, the citizen is the main victim of the situation; how can the victim be blamed? On the other hand, it is our duty to inform citizens, to tell them the truth about the chain of actions and reactions that have created the current situation. Yes, the Government needs to improve its effectiveness and yes, the citizens need to be more responsible in their actions; this is the collaboration that we are offering. And we want to start it from a clean slate, without placing blame.
Number of Violations Since the State of Emergency
The Police Force of the Republic of Armenia has reported that 31,588 violations of safety protocols have been registered in the country since the establishment of the State of Emergency, 1,272 of which were registered on June 12.
Azerbaijani Hackers Release Personal Data of COVID-19 Patients
Samvel Martirosyan, a specialist in information security and new media has reported that Azerbaijani hackers have released the personal data of 3,500 COVID-19 patients in Armenia. According to Martirosyan, the hackers claimed to have gotten into an email belonging to the Ministry of Health. It is yet to be confirmed whether the released information is accurate. However, according to Martirosyan, other than the danger of having personal information be made public (if the lists are accurate), it is still unclear what other information the hackers have also gotten access to.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Mane Gevogyan responded to the news saying law enforcement is already looking into the matter, to check if the leaked information is accurate and to understand how the data was compromised.
Update on the Situation in Artsakh
The Health Ministry of the Republic of Artsakh has reported ten new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 78 cases. Three are residents of the capital Stepanakert, one of whom has had no contact with previously confirmed patients and had recently returned from the Republic of Armenia, the other two Stepanakert residents had been in contact with previously confirmed patients.
The remaining seven confirmed cases are from communities in the Hadrut region, which are already under quarantine and were infected during a funeral.
The Artsakh Health Ministry also reported 11 new recoveries, bringing the total to 54; 91 people are in quarantine and 1,284 tests have been carried out to date.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 723 new cases of COVID-19 and 442 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 16,004, of which 9,568 are active cases and 6,081 have already recovered. Six COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 65 and the oldest 69), who all had pre-existing health conditions, except for the 69-year-old, died bringing the total number of deaths to 264. Five other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 91 such cases have been reported. To date, 80,130 tests have been conducted, of which 2,444 were in the last 24 hours.
Pashinyan on the Psychology of the Armenian Nation
In a morning Facebook Live, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that a new daily record had been set, with 723 cases confirmed in the last 24 hours. He said this has devastated him, not only because of the new record numbers but also because of what he observed on his way to work from Sevan today. “Even from the car window, it was clear that people continue to ignore the safety regulations,” he said, adding that, after having visited the Nork Infection Hospital and St. Gregory the Illuminator Medical Center last week, seeing so many people disobeying safety guidelines left him with the impression that they were all walking toward the ICU.
Pashinyan said the issue is beyond the scope of the pandemic; it is an attitude toward the state and the psychological roots of this kind of behavior lie elsewhere. According to the Prime Minister, having had no statehood for more than 500 years, having lived under Persian, Ottoman and Russian rule, state order has been internalized by Armenians as being imposed from abroad and associated with humiliation and violence. This has also often been the case since 1991, Pashinyan said, when even domestic Armenian authorities continued to clash with citizens. Therefore more often than not, state order has not been a tool through which to exercise our freedom but, on the contrary, it has been used to deprive us of our rights.
According to the Prime Minister, the 2018 Velvet Revolution has given us that freedom and now an order is in place that aims to protect the freedom of the people. Subconsciously, order is still perceived as a threat to freedom. We have never had a chance to establish the order we wished for and this is a pivotal moment in our statehood. Pashinyan said we should erase from our subconsciousness the last traces of statelessness. This is a historical moment, one that should be viewed from beyond the context of the pandemic; this is a moment that can make our statehood or break it.
Another psychological component, according to Pashinyan, is that the people are not used to hearing the truth from the government. Starting with the Soviet Union, official statements have been peppered with lies and attempted to conceal the truth. People have learned to believe the latest gossip, information that reaches them through the acquaintance of an acquaintance, rather than official sources. Even now, despite official reports of hundreds of deaths, of thousands of infected, some people are still wired in a way that makes what an acquaintance of an acquaintance said about the virus not being real feel trustworthy.
Pashinyan said either the pandemic has awakened in the people the memory of the other’s rule or worse, the concept of one’s own statehood has not yet fully rooted in people’s minds.
The Cost of Testing
Arsen Torosyan, the Minister of Health, said in the National Assembly that the price of one COVID-19 diagnosis with a PCR test from China costs about $30. Thereby, around $30,000 is spent to conduct 1,000 tests daily. The monthly cost of conducting 1,000 tests every day is about $1 million. The Minister explained that new locally-produced tests are significantly cheaper and the Government will save a lot of money by using those tests.
Torosyan noted that the cost of a coronavirus diagnostic test depends not only on the cost of the test itself, but also on the cost of a number of other factors, including the stick, test tube, medical staff, etc. The Minister also clarified when citizens are tested for coronavirus for free. He noted that only those who meet the required indicators are tested and, if the test results come back positive, they are either hospitalized or start receiving treatment in their homes.