During this evening’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the following:
- He and his family, after double testing, have tested negative for COVID-19;
- In the last several days, a positive trend has been registered with regard to people following the safety regulations;
- The effects of this compliance of the population will not be known for at least another week because the incubation period of the virus is at least seven days;
- Following the rules should not be done as a formality; people must follow the guidelines correctly: wearing a mask, disinfecting hands, maintaining physical distance including rules for businesses must be done to stop further transmission;
- Wearing a mask has a specific method (how often one must change them, etc.)
- Anti-epidemic policy: we have daily consultations and we are adopting decisions that stem from the interests of Armenia’s national security, public health, the economy and our issue is not only to come out of this situation, but to come out stronger;
- Among the issues we are addressing, we have also tried to raise civic consciousness which we hope to achieve as a result of this situation;
- This will lead us to start learning how to form queues, to following rules, laws, learning how to live as a collective, how to respect the rights of others
- I want to say with satisfaction that our call to start an anti-epidemic movement has been heard and we should all help one another to follow the safety regulations.
The Prime Minister then asked Health Minister Arsen Torosyan to provide an update on the current situation:
- The Minister explained that the reason for the low number of tests conducted was because the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (which usually conducts between 1,000 to 1,300 tests per day) stopped its operation for one day to have their facilities disinfected;
- Behavioral and cultural changes should become entrenched in society, since we will be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for a long time;
- 403 patients are in critical condition and 94 are in extremely critical condition and the government is working to ensure that the number of such patients is low, which according to Torosyan will be possible only if the overall number of confirmed cases decreases;
- As the government increases the capacity of hospitals allocated to COVID-19 patients, citizens should continue following the anti-epidemic rules, so that the situation can be kept under control;
- Regional medical centers, including in Vedi (100 beds), Spitak (100 beds), Dilijan (60), Martuni (40) have also started treating COVID-19 patients. Some of those centers have the capacity for oxygen therapy, which can prevent the later need for ventilators for some of the patients. The bed capacity of Armenia Medical Center and St. Astvatsamayr Medical Center has also been increased. Overall, 350 additional beds were allocated for COVID-19 patients.
- The Government is doing everything, but if people continue not following the rules, the Government will eventually not be able to meet the always increasing needs of the patients;
- Torosyan urged the citizens to wear face masks correctly and regularly change those masks, disinfect/wash their hands, and maintain social distancing;
- Following the rules in the workplace is of equal importance and people should take the initiative and demand that their employers and co-workers follow the guidelines.
Following Torosyan’s address, Prime Minister Pashinyan invited Nushik Urumyan, a student at the Artik Medical College, who has been volunteering at the Scientific Center of Traumatology and Orthopaedics to say a few words:
I came from the city of Maralik two months ago and have been volunteering at the ER department of the Orthopedic Hospital ever since. I have seen my children through video calls but I’m proud of my decision and I ask my fellow citizens to take the situation with utmost seriousness. By wearing your masks you help us be hopeful that one day soon we will be rid of our protective overalls and the masks, which make work extremely difficult.
Haykakan Jamananak, Susanna Poghosyan: There were media reports yesterday that the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Artak Davtyan had held his son’s wedding at his house. Hours ago you released him from his post which leads me to believe you have deemed it to be a breach of the State of Emergency (SOE). Does the subsequent release of the head of police and the head of the National Security Service from their posts, have anything to do with the incident? Were they unaware of the [planned wedding] or knew and did nothing?
Nikol Pashinyan: A crisis is a situation when often friendships, work relationships, official and unofficial relationships are confused. I want to wish all newlyweds happiness, including General Lieutenant Davtyan’s son and daughter-in-law. Decisions made during times of crises are often not definitive but there is a line when discipline, and following the rules mandated by the SOE and the head of state becomes a priority and overshadows all else. I regret this development but I think, given the situation, the safety of the country, the quality of state administration demanded that such decisions be made. Above everyone else, state bodies should serve as an example and exhibit extreme and unconditional discipline for us to be able to encourage our compatriots and overcome the crisis as soon as possible. I do not believe these officials had exhausted their potential of serving the country and I believe it still possible for them to continue their service in the future.
Aravot.am, Lusine Budaghyan: You and many in your government call on unity in the fight against the pandemic on a daily basis. At the same time there are public figures and politicians who insist that the government is not collaborating with professionals in the field just because they are affiliated with the former regime. The latest such announcement was made by Vahan Ardzruni, head of the Board of Directors of the Yerevan State Medical University. Why is the government not consolidating the potential in the country? Why has the government invited private hospitals to join the fight against Covid-19 only in the last couple of days?
Nikol Pashinyan: The Erebuni and Armenia Medical Centers are privately owned and have been in the fight for quite a while, including also the Astghik Medical Center. In making these decisions, the government takes into consideration epidemiological safety rules; there needs to be a clear division between the Covid departments and other sections of the hospitals to avoid the spread of the virus within the hospital.
In regards to Mr. Ardzruni’s announcement, I know that three days prior to his announcement, the issue had been resolved, and the [Health] Ministry had already reached an agreement with the corresponding medical center. The Ministry made a public call to all medical centers yesterday to participate, however, before that, the Ministry inventorized the capabilities of all medical centers to be able to evaluate the possibilities of the participants.
I also want to add that expanding healthcare capacity is not just about space and equipment. It is important that these buildings and equipment be used by highly professional personnel. It is obvious that there is much conjecture when it comes to the coronavirus situation. While I take it lightly, we do follow them and any criticism closely. We evaluate and reevaluate our actions taking into consideration the criticism. However, I can say that Armenia is in a unique situation regarding the pandemic. The field can be separated into two camps – people whose objective it has become to see the virus spread and spiral out of control, these are known political forces. These political circles will see their end with the end of the pandemic, even those who until today have not understood that they are finished. After the pandemic their demise will be definitive. The sabotage will have an equivalent evaluation and the initiator of the sabotage will be thrown into the trash bin of Armenia’s political history. They are already there de facto and we will make sure they are there de jure as well.
Update on the Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and 85 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 13,325, of which 8,943 are active cases and 4,099 have already recovered. Eleven COVID-19 patients (the youngest aged 52 and the oldest 88), who all had pre-existing health conditions, died bringing the total number of deaths to 211. Three other patients with COVID-19 also died, but the virus was not the cause of death; 72 such cases have been reported. To date, 70,000 tests have been conducted, of which 829 were in the last 24 hours.
The Health Ministry had informed yesterday that the laboratory of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where most of the coronavirus tests are performed, would stop operations for one day to be disinfected. This explains the low number of tests conducted within the last 24 hours, and consequently the lower number of confirmed cases for the day.
On the initiative of Pavel Oganezov, the Director Alik Media, ten ventilators will be sent to Armenia. Since the border between Georgia and Armenia remains closed, the Armenian Embassy in Georgia will assist to deliver the devices. MS-500 portable ventilators will be transferred to the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund.
Oganesov has also launched a fundraiser under the slogan “One face mask, one life” and a lot of Georgian-Armenians joined the initiative. Since wearing a face mask is required in Armenia and has become an additional burden for many families, the collected funds will be used to purchase face masks and allocated to socially vulnerable groups in Armenia.
Feliks Tsolakyan, the Minister of Emergency Situations (MES), said in a Facebook post that, to address the increase in the number of calls to the Ministry of Health and the Emergency Ambulance Service hotlines, the number of doctors working at MES has almost doubled. Now, citizens can call 911 at any time of day or night and receive free medical advice from the doctors working at the Ministry.
Tsolakyan also said that citizens who need psychological counseling services because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other reason, may contact the Ministry’s psychologists at the following telephone numbers: 060 712 444 or 010 360 684. If necessary, citizens can also receive remote video therapy over Viber at +374 41 911 006.