During today’s press briefing, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that while recent weeks, high profile criminal cases, political developments, discussions in the National Assembly took center stage, Armenia unfortunately has become one of the leading countries in the world with its daily number of infections and the number COVID-19 patients per capita. Pashinyan said this is a serious problem for Armenia and it is derivative of the main problem, which is the public’s realization of the gravity of the situation in the country. Instead of three million people forging a daily fight against the epidemic, there is widespread misinformation about the pandemic, life seems to be continuing as it was before. Pashinyan said life should continue, however, guided by the strict regulations of safety rules. For this reason, Pashinyan said there remains no alternative to:
- Imposing stricter safety regulations in the near future;
- The new package of stricter safety regulation will cover a variety of directions;
- A criminal case has been launched when a person who had tested positive for COVID-19 decided to drive a taxi;
- The government will also start collecting the administrative fines issued for non-compliance with safety rules;
- Legislative changes are being considered to make sure that the period between the fine being issued and its collection is minimized;
- Every citizen should know that the only guarantee to avoid being fined [for non-compliance] is to follow the anti-epidemic safety regulations.
Pashinyan said there is a misgiving in Armenia when people think that it is the healthcare system that should fight the virus. The healthcare system can fight the consequences of the virus, and provide healthcare to the sick. The real fight against the pandemic happens on the streets, in the backyards, on public transportation, at work, at the shops… everywhere.
And this fight can only be effective if the majority of the population invests in it. We have a population of three million, we do not have three million police officers to police each citizen, we do not even have 300,000 police officers. Communication and dialogue with the people, along with administrative measures remain our only option when there is no will on the side of the state to resort to repressive measures.
Armen Martirosyan, Director of Antares Media Holding, whose father passed away after being infected with COVID-19:
- A couple of weeks ago my whole family got infected, my father, mother, brother, the mother of my children, my daughter, my sister, my mother-in-law, my other brother’s family, even my brother’s infant daughter. My brother is in the hospital, my children’s mother was released recently and the rest are being treated at home. I have not been in contact with my parents for four and a half months but I could not ensure that others who were infected would not come into contact with them either without following the regulations;
- Let my case be an example which shows that it is not enough to follow safety rules yourself as long as you tolerate the non-compliance of others;
- All those who say that COVID-19 is not real or is not dangerous, might as well say that during the April 2016 war, Azerbaijanis with their drones or bombs that attacked us are not dangerous.
Karen Tonoyan, anesthesiologist, ICU specialist at St. Gregory the Illuminator Hospital:
- I have been fighting the pandemic since the very first day. The first period was very difficult as the virus was yet unknown and we did not know how to best fight it;
- As easily as the virus spread, it just as easily damages the patient’s health. I have watched a patient come into the hospital on their feet only to be incapacitated by the virus within hours;
- I too was infected. I was lying in bed while my colleagues and friends continued the fight, I became a danger to their health;
- I overcame the virus but do not feel victorious. Only when the last COVID-19 patient in Armenia recovers will I feel a sense of achievement;
- This virus has the capacity to destroy families, please come together like a fist and fight alongside the doctors.
Armenia TV, Nairi Muradyan: A legislative package is being developed to centralize the management of the healthcare system during the State of Emergency (SOE). The bill will be sent to the National Assembly next week. Could you please explain, in what cases acting directors will be appointed and whether it would be easy to find such people, considering the lack of professionals in the country? How would this decision decrease the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Armenia?
Nikol Pashinyan: Currently, there is no need for a centralized management, because all the medical centers are actively collaborating with the Health Ministry and the Government. We are simply trying to find any legislative gaps, which can cause problems later. The goal of the proposed bill is to introduce a complete legislative mechanism. As of today, there has not been a need for such a mechanism and it is all about improving the existing legislation.
Public Radio of Armenia, Hasmik Dilanyan: Hans Kluge, the Regional Director of Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the organization is concerned about the dynamics of the spread of the virus in Europe and mentioned easing quarantine restrictions as the cause for the acceleration of the pandemic. According to the Kluge, the spread of the virus in 11 European countries, including in Armenia, is very concerning and if steps are not taken healthcare systems will collapse. Is Armenia using effective methods to fight the coronavirus? What is the next step in the Government’s strategy?
Nikol Pashinyan: It is important to note that the Government’s challenge is to keep a right balance between economic and healthcare/social concerns. Over 70,000 jobs were lost due to the pandemic until April and if the lockdown was in force longer then there was a danger that Armenia could face a social collapse. It is apparent to us that we have to do everything to learn to live alongside the virus.
Two days ago, the representative of the WHO was in Armenia and it was interesting to know their evaluation of the country’s COVID-19 strategy. During the meeting, we reaffirmed that the problem is not with the rules but rather how well people follow the rules. The recommendations of the representative were the same: wear a face mask, regularly disinfect/wash hands and maintain physical distancing. The representative of WHO also said that a vaccine has not been developed yet, and until it is, the face mask remains our vaccine. Armenia has a problem with the enforcement of the rules and a need for a widespread behavioural change. Smaller neighbourhoods and funeral services are among the Government’s biggest challenges. Our strategy is to learn how to live alongside the virus and change our behaviour. The Government has never said that there won’t be a need to introduce another lockdown to save people’s lives (but we very well understand that such a decision would seriously affect Armenia’s economy). I urge everyone to follow the rules and encourage others to follow to do the same.
Situation in Artsakh
According to the Health Ministry of the Republic of Artsakh, a resident of the Hadrut region has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of infected to 114; 68 people are quarantined and a total of 1828 tests have been conducted.
Update on Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 759 new cases of COVID-19 and 814 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 23,247, of which 10,557 are active cases and 12,149 have already recovered. Thirteen COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 51 and the oldest 88), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 410. To date, 105,046 tests have been conducted, of which 2,310 were in the last 24 hours.
Breach of Personal Data
According to Armenia’s Special Investigative Service, on June 1, a Facebook user by the name of “zndan711” wrote: “Who will answer for the innocent deaths? As a result of the virus, we unfortunately have many deaths and that number is growing everyday. And would everything be so sad if we had a normal leader?” Along with the status, the user shared a copy of a list of names of those who had died; 132 names included date of birth, date of death, addresses and names of medical institutions.
On June 3, a criminal case was launched under Article 144 of the RA Criminal Code (illegal collection, storage, use or dissemination of information about personal or family life), which was sent to the Investigative Committee in Yerevan.
Arsen Torosyan on Mortality Rate
According to Health Ministry Arsen Torosyan, the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients in ICU is 24%. “This is more than a good indicator, it is conditioned by the work of our medical staff and the timely and proper provision of medical care. In many developed Western countries, this figure has fluctuated between 35-45%,” the Minister said.