Cumulative Cases: 2376
Active Cases: 1312
Pashinyan, Torosyan, Avinyan
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Health Minister Arsen Torosyan and Deputy Prime Minister and Warden of the Special Commission of the State of Emergency Tigran Avinyan held a Facebook live where they discussed the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
Pashinyan said the country is moving to a decentralized approach to fighting the virus, something people might remember from the days of the Velvet Revolution. According to the Prime Minister, if there were any guarantees that imposing strict restrictions for yet another month would eliminate the virus from Armenia, the government would have chosen that path. However, it is estimated that the world will be dealing with the pandemic for at least another year.
Avinyan said most restrictions on economic activity have effectively been lifted [see the list below] with the exception of 10-12 domains, such as education (which will continue to be conducted remotely) and public transportation (which is a high-risk vector forspreading the virus). Avinyan said he hopes that, after certain measures are taken and regulations are put in place, there will be an opportunity to also lift restrictions on public transportation. Malls will stay closed, he said.
Avinyan said the SOErestrictions slowed the spread of the virus to allow the Special Comissission to prepare, adapt and grow its capacity to make sure the healthcare system does not collapse, as was the case in many different countries. This includes acquiring the necessary amount of tests and ventilators, and retraining professionals. Avinyan said these measures have ensured that Armenia is able to service several thousand active cases of the infection.
Speaking to the assumption that warm weather will slow down the transmission of the virus, Avinyan said that the experiences of other countries, such as the Persian Gulf states, indicate that those assumptions were incorrect.
Avinyan said that, in this new stage that the country is entering, much is dependent on the personal sense of responsibility of individual citizens. This will test our ability to follow the rules and maintain social distance, said Avinyan. According to the Deputy PM, it is yet to be seen to what extent businesses are able to implement the rules already in place. Also, there are punitive measures in place for non-compliance, however, according to Avinyan, post factum fines do not mean there will not be a hike in the spread of the virus at a given factory.
Pashinyan thanked the Special Commission and the Ministry of Health for the work they have been doing, and said the Commission will continue to work until the end of the SOE and the Ministry of Health will continue to fight the virus indefinitely. Pashinyan said that, with the lifting of the restriction on free movement, each citizen now bears their own share of responsibility to not get infected and not infect others.
Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said Armenia is no different from many countries that are at risk of a resurgence of the virus, and this decentralized approach is a tool used in all countries. As difficult as it is to always keep physical distance and not touch one’s face, Torosyan said a behavioral change is needed to protect those closest to us, our families and those who we live with.
Torosyan said the recent increase in the numbers of cases has to do in part with the increase in people’s mobility when certain restrictions on economic activity were lifted earlier in the week, but also in part because of the emergence of new hubs. Torosyan said the number of critically ill patients and patients in serious condition has also increased. Currently, there are 65 patients in serious condition, 35 in extremely critical condition and nine patients are on respirators. This has not yet overwhelmed the healthcare system because additional resources were mobilized during the SOE and the system is now capable of dealing with 3000-4000 active cases. When the bed capacity of the country is met, Torosyan said they will be obliged to adopt a different kind of patient reclassification. According to Torosyan, the current goal is to not exceed the bed capacity so that no patient will have to be treated at home and only cases with advanced pneumonia are hospitalized.
Torosyan said there are very straightforward protocols in place for each industry on how to proceed with their daily activities. There are protocols for office work, shops, etc. These protocols are universal but in order to ensure that the regulations are clear for both the employee and the employer, they have also been separated into domain-specific sections.
Avinyan said citizens can play an important role by reporting to authorities if there are cases of non-compliance. However, the main body overseeing and monitoring businesses will be state agency inspectorates. Pashinyan said that, even if every oversight body of the government works all day long, they will only be able to monitor a small segment of businesses.
Armenia is also starting production of high quality face masks, about 200,000 a day; Avinyan confirmed that the production should start tomorrow at the latest. Other than the local production of masks, Avinyan said that enough have been imported for Armenia not to be concerned about a deficit for the time being. The only problem with masks in the country is price fluctuation but not a shortage.
Besides daily temperature checks, Torosyan said it is important for people to call for medical advice if they are not feeling well and to not brush it off as something that will soon pass.
Torosyan also said the Ministry is ready to provide on-site recommendations for all businesses to make sure rules are followed.
Avinyan said the Special Commission is now working on adopting more measures to make sure people who have come in contact with a confirmed patient are following the rules of self-isolation. He said in the coming week yet another system of monitoring self-isolation will be put in place in collaboration with the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the police and clinics.
COVID-19 and Medical Staff
Health Minister Arsen Torosyan wrote the following regarding the situation of medical staff in Armenia on his Facebook page:
As this question is often asked, I would like to inform you that 320 or about 13.4% of the 2386 cases of COVID-19 have been registered among medical staff. This, of course, is painful but it can be said that it was also inevitable.
You can probably imagine how difficult it is for the healthcare system to treat or isolate a person who has to treat patients with COVID-19. And taking into consideration the long recuperation period, healthcare workers are unable to work for a very long time.
Fortunately, we do not have any deaths among healthcare workers, thanks to the Ministry of Health’s recommendation that medical staff over the age of 60 with chronic illnesses should stay at home as much as possible. Of course, this again complicates the situation, as many doctors and nurses are unable to help their younger and healthier colleagues fight for the lives of patients, further increasing their workload and the risk they face.
New Regulations as of May 4
Starting on May 4, the government of Armenia will be easing most of the State of Emergency (SOE) restrictions in the country. Deputy Prime Minister and Warden of the Special Commission on SOE, Tigran Avinayan published the list of changes made to those restrictions which will be lifted and those which will remain in force.
- All restrictions on people’s free movement are lifted; a written form will no longer be required;
- Public transportation will continue to be shut down;
- Restrictions on interregional transportation are lifted [they were lifted a week ago]; instead certain communities can be placed under temporary lockdown depending on the spread of the virus or if the community becomes an infection hub.
In addition to the spheres already permitted to operate, restrictions on the following spheres will also be lifted:
- Production of textile, shoes, furniture, printing;
- Work on completion of construction projects;
- Wholesale and retail trade, but only in specialized and non-specialized stores and kiosks. Shopping malls and markets will remain closed. Only food, agricultural outlets and pharmacies can operate in shopping centers;
- Open air cafes, restaurants and pubs;
- Information and communication sector;
- Zoos, botanical gardens and nature reserves;
- Sports clubs and sports facilities exclusively for professional athletes to train and hold sporting events;
- Personal services: washing, cleaning and dry cleaning services, hairdressing salons, beauty parlors.
There are mandatory rules for the organization of activities for each of the domains, non-compliance with which will lead to fines and other penalties. At the same time, compliance enforcement will be strengthened.
In a message to the people, Avinyan also said that the decision to ease restrictions does not mean the danger of the pandemic is behind us, but rather this is an attempt to establish new rules of coexistence. At this stage, individual, social and corporate responsibility is of utmost importance. Avinyan said this is a test of sorts to see to what extent people are capable of discipline and social awareness and responsibility. Avinyan noted that, if the situation worsens, there will be a return to stricter restrictions.
Update on Number of Cases
In the latest update, the Ministry Health has confirmed that there are 113 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 new recoveries, bringing the total number of infections to 2386, with 1312 active cases and 1035 recoveries.
Two patients, a 79-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man, have died, bringing the death toll to 35. The Ministry also said another patient infected with COVID-19 has died but the virus was not the cause of death. So far, four similar cases have been registered.
To date, 24,177 tests have been conducted with negative results.