Total number of people infected with COVID-19: 853
Total number of recovered: 87
Total number of deaths: 8
Georgi Avetisyan, Head of the Food Safety Inspectorate spoke about their activities since the start of the State of Emergency (SOE) to limit the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference. Avetisyan said the state agency has distributed guidelines to halt the spread of the virus to supermarkets, catering and food production facilities. They have monitored 500 businesses in Yerevan and 3,600 in the regions. The Inspectorate has also tightened sanitary requirements in those facilities, instructed supermarkets to avoid queues and make sure that employees who have a temperature or any other symptoms be sent home to self-isolate. Avetisyan noted that the regional branches of the Inspectorate are conducting regular monitoring throughout Armenia to ensure outdoor agricultural markets cease operations. A working group was established on April 6 to monitor that organizations selling food online also follow the requirements set by legislation. Avetisyan said that they received over 60 calls to the hotline in March regarding sanitary conditions and food quality at certain supermarkets and food production companies.
Avetisyan said that drivers of cargo trucks undergo a mandatory medical examination before entering the territory of Armenia. Employees of the Food Safety Inspectorate are provided with protective gear and, to date, no employee has tested positive for the virus.
Artsakh Registers its First Case of COVID-19
The Ministry of Health of the Artsakh Republic has confirmed that a resident has tested positive for COVID-19. The patient had been transferred to the Kashatagh Medical Center on the morning of April 2 and quarantined after returning to Artsakh following a visit to one of the larger infection hubs in Armenia.
The patient is from the village of Mirik in the Kashatagh region of Artsakh. The patient had come into contact with 17 people after returning to Artsakh, all of whom have been placed in self-quarantine. A second citizen, who was hospitalized on April 4 after exhibiting symptoms of bronchitis, was also tested for COVID-19 (this person is a neighbor of the first patient), but that test came back negative.
Education & Culture in Times of COVID-19
During a press conference, Zhanna Andreasyan and Arayik Khzmalyan, Deputy Ministers of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, spoke about distance education programs put into place because of the state of emergency and the online activities of theaters, museums and music halls.
Andreasyan noted that the Ministry has been working to guarantee the continuity of the educational process, accessibility of distance learning, training of teachers as well as the development of new methodological guidelines. She said that the Ministry is continuing its collaboration with Public TV, where classes are being aired every morning starting from 8:30 a.m. and again at 11:30 a.m. The Ministry is working to make sure that classes do not only cover school subjects, but also present topics that can interest society in general, such as choosing professions and financial literacy. The feedback, according to Andreasyan, has shown that these classes have generated interest among a wide audience and not only students.
Andreasyan noted that the Ministry has also prepared (and will continue doing so) 95 video lessons, in accordance with the academic schedule, which are available on the Ministry’s YouTube page, Facebook page, as well as on UCOM, Rostelecom and Beeline, free of charge.. The Ministry is also collaborating with regional TV stations to make sure they too are airing the video lessons to ensure a wider audience is exposed to the content. Because not all students have access to distance learning (due to the lack of computers and smartphones), such measures are of critical importance. Therefore, the Ministry’s latest initiative is targeted at addressing this problem. It is estimated that approximately 24,000 students fall into this category. So far, 600 computers, smartphones and tablets have been donated by various organizations and individuals.
During the past several weeks, the Ministry has also developed guidelines for teachers, parents and students, which are available online in text and video format. The Ministry has also launched an electronic platform for teachers, where information on how distance learning is organized in schools across Armenia is uploaded. The platform was launched in March, and over 80 percent of teachers are already registered. Training has been organized for teachers in Armenia and Artsakh, so that they are better equipped to use different online platforms. Andreasyan also spoke of the collaboration among teachers in an eTwinning platform, where the Ministry has launched a number of projects, with the involvement of 324 teachers and 3200 students. Teachers are organizing classes for students in rural communities or joint classes are being organized by several teachers. The Deputy Minister noted that such collaborations are allowing the Ministry to think of ways on how distance learning can be incorporated in the educational process moving forward.
Speaking about the continuation of classes after the state of emergency, Andreasyan said that they are considering several scenarios and that a final decision has yet to be made. The Deputy Minister also spoke about the future incorporation of distance learning in the educational process. The amendments to the Law on Education, which detail the procedure for organizing distance learning and in which cases it can be implemented entered into force on April 2. Even before the state of emergency was declared, the Ministry was testing distance learning in two remote communities of Armenia, which did not have a sufficient number of students for specific subjects. Concerns were raised regarding the overall effectiveness of and risks associated with distance learning, and Andreasyan noted that trusting the schools and teachers is an important component of the process.
To date, schools in the marzes of Lori, Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Armavir, Syunik and Vayots Dzor have received 56 new tablets, schools in Aragatsotn received 81 devices. Andreasyan said that devices are being provided to socially vulnerable families, families with a single parent or those with two or more students. Currently, the Ministry is in discussions with international organizations and telecommunication providers, and it is expected that, in the future, several hundred more devices will be donated by them as well.
Deputy Minister Arayik Khzmalyan presented the activities of cultural institutions and noted that there is a considerable increase in public interest as there has been unprecedented organic growth of followers on their social media pages. The Spendaryan National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet broadcast six performances on their Facebook page between March 17 and April 5, garnering more than 840,000 views. The Sundukyan State Academic Theatre has also started broadcasting online plays. Khzmalyan said the first broadcast, which was broadcast on April 6, had around 40,000 views. The musicians of the National Philharmonic Orchestra are performing and airing their concert programs, calling audience members to stay home. The broadcast of Aram Khachatryan’s second symphony that was recorded in 2019, with an introduction by the orchestra’s Artistic Director and Conductor Eduard Topchyan about Khachaturyan’s place in international music history and the symphony in particular, also had an unprecedented amount of views. Khzmalyan also said the “ARMMONO” International Theater Festival launched a series of talks with representatives of the industry. The artists of the Hamazkayin State Theatre have started a fable series, again an initiative with an educational component according to Khzmalyan. The actors of the theater read fables, which are followed by an online discussion and a call by the artists to discuss the fables at home. The best analysis of the fable submitted online is then declared the winner. The Ministry has also finished filming a series called “Your Contemporary,” which is about talented young musicians bearing a message that you don’t need to be a grown up to become famous; hard work and initiative can make your achievements known sooner. In collaboration with the Cinematographer’s Union of Armenia and the Cinema Center, the Ministry has already broadcast 14 animated films on webtv.am. Khzmalyan said before each film, there is an introduction by a professional about the history of the creation of the animated film and the history of animation in general.
Since everyone does not have access to online programs, the Ministry is also collaborating with six regional TV stations in Armenia, which are also broadcasting all of the Ministry’s cultural educational programs.
New Cases of COVID-19
The Ministry of Health confirmed 20 new cases of COVID-19 in Armenia, bringing the total number to 853. An additional 25 patients have recovered, bringing the total to 87.
Prime Minister Pashinyan Cautiously Optimistic
In a Facebook live, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said both the Health Ministry and the Special Commission continue to maintain cautious optimism. Pashinyan said there have been 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, which is more than the previous day (11 cases). However, the projections are optimistic because, for the first time, the number of new cases is less than the number of recoveries; 25 COVID-19 patients have recovered. More than 400 people in quarantine have been released.
Pashinyan said the impression is that the pressure on the health system has slightly decreased, the reason might be that the system has adapted to the situation. Of the 1,400 hospital beds designated for COVID-19 patients, only half are in use.
The Prime Minister also said that there is a decrease in the number of extremely critical cases. The health of two patients previously in extremely critical condition has stabilized. These new statistics, according to Pashinyan, show that the government’s policy of imposing restrictions is likely yielding results and asked people to abide by the laws of the state of emergency with more rigor to make it possible for the government to start the process of loosening some of the imposed restrictions starting Monday.
Social and economic assistance packages totalling 2.35 billion AMD is ready to be allocated to beneficiaries.