Cumulative Cases: 1111
Active Cases: 797
Testing Continues in Artsakh
According to the Health Ministry of the Republic of Artsakh, 16 people were tested for COVID-19. All of those tests have come back negative.
Two of the 16 people tested, who had been in quarantine in Kashatagh, will be re-tested tomorrow according to the mandated procedure. If the second test also comes back negative, they will be released and allowed to return home.
Central Bank of Armenia Press Conference
Andranik Grigoryan, Head of the Central Bank of Armenia’s Financial Stability Department, gave a press conference today and spoke about the policy of the Central Bank to ensure financial stability in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grigoryan said that, from the beginning of March, when there were indicators that COVID-19 could have an adverse effect on Armenia’s economy, the Central Bank started daily discussions with the financial sector to understand how they could mitigate the impact on the economy. He said that banks and credit organizations in Armenia expressed willingness to work with customers on a case-by-case basis to review the terms of their loans, to try and mitigate any issues that could surface in the coming two to three months that would negatively impact the credit history of customers or increase their credit burden.
At the same time, to stimulate funding for the economy, the Central Bank reduced its refinancing interest rates by 0.25 percent. Under these conditions, Grigoryan said they found it necessary to take this step so that the expected financial crisis does not have a deep impact on the country’s economy. The Central Bank worked with banks so that all loans, including international loans, could be reviewed and customers given the opportunity to extend them by six months or not to remit payments for up to six months, which would give them the opportunity to accumulate additional cash reserves to mitigate problems with liquidity.
Grigoryan said that, if and when the need arises, the Central Bank of Armenia can assist the financial market with the necessary liquidity. The CBA official urged everyone to stay home and take advantage of online banking to avoid physically going to the bank.
On April 3, 2020, Fitch Ratings revised the outlook on Armenia’s long-term issuer default ratings (IDR) to negative from stable. Grigoryan said that, during a global financial crisis, Armenia, like many other countries, is at risk and that Fitch subsequently has revised its ratings for many countries.
Regarding fluctuations in the currency, Grigoryan said that the CBA’s policy is to allow a floating exchange rate, and it intervenes only if there is a severe fluctuation. In times of crisis, it is normal that there will be fluctuations in the exchange rate. Grigoryan urged everyone not to be swayed by short-term changes. He asked the population to believe in the AMD, to believe in the CBA’s policy and said that the country’s financial situation has returned to pre-coronavirus levels.
Ministry of Economy Press Conference
During a press conference, Deputy Ministers of Economy, Varos Simonyan and Avag Avanesyan spoke about the restrictions on certain economic activities. Before the press conference, the ministry spokesperson announced that the government had decided to expand the scope of the third assistance package, which is targeted toward small and medium sized businesses. According to the previous regulations, the beneficiaries of the program could be business owners (Armenian residents) with good credit and tax records. The new regulations stipulate that all those business owners who did not have overdue credit obligations as of December 31, 2019, can also be potential beneficiaries of the assistance program.
The second change in the assistance package saw the prerequisite that the beneficiary’s quarterly turnover for 2019 not be less than 10% of the annual turnover be changed to quarterly turnover for 2019 not be more than 70% of the annual turnover.
Deputy Minister Varosyan reminded that the new decision of the Special Commission lifted the restrictions on certain economic activities and that it is in force as of this week. According to the decision, the following economic activities will be allowed during the State of Emergency (SOE):
– Tobacco production
– Open air construction
– Agriculture, forestry and fish farming
– Mining and work in open pits
– Supply of electricity, gas, steam and cool air
– Water supply, sewage, waste management and recycling
– Warehousing and transport ancillary activities
– Financial and insurance activity
– State administration and protection; compulsory social security
– Health and social services for people
– Activities of foreign organizations
Varosyan expressed hope that, during the next week, more economic activities will be permitted through a step-by-step approach. Depending on the spread of the pandemic, the Special Commission will make decisions regarding the activities of all the other economic activities. Varosyan also spoke about the recent developments in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
In addition to the previous agreement to import medicine and medical equipment with zero customs tax for six months, which was initiated by Armenia and ratified by EAEU member states, the list has been expanded to also include agricultural produce, which Varosyan said will also be imported with no customs tax for the next three months. Varosyan also said negotiations are underway to apply a zero tax policy or a reduced taxation system for the import of a number of other products or raw material of economic importance for EAEU member states, which will allow for production in these countries to continue uninterrupted and also have a social-economic impact.
The EU will allocate 92 million EUR in assistance to Armenia, which will mainly go to support the healthcare system, citizens most impacted by the crisis and small and medium sized businesses. Varosyan said this amount is not final and with the new Team Europe package adopted by the EU, which will allocate 20 billion EUR to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences, Armenia is likely to get additional support funding. In addition, Varosyan said 80 million EUR in assistance will be given to the Eastern Partnership member countries. The EU-funded Green Agriculture Initiative will also allocate 456,000 EUR to support agriculture in Armenia.
Avag Avanesyan said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently allocated 280 million USD in assistance to Armenia. According to Avanesyan, this means the “stand by” arrangement can be used as a budgetary loan. The amount was made available to Armenia due to Armenia’s constant improvement of its business environment in collaboration with its international partners. According to Avanesyan, this has built up trust that Armenia will allocate the additional funds to eradicate the consequences of the crisis and do it in a targeted way. The loan, which the IMF grants with no preconditions, will be spent on improving Armenia’s healthcare system and softening social and economic blows.
Update on Number of Cases
According to the Ministry of Health, 44 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, bringing the total number to 1111. Also, 32 patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 297 and one COVID-19 patient, 66, who had severe pneumonia has died.