Armenia Declares Emergency As Numbers Of Infected Soar
Armenia vs Coronavirus

Armenia Declares Emergency As Numbers Of Infected Soar

According to official figures, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Armenia totaled at 30 by the time the emergency state was announced, however over a few hours it hiked to 52, thus making the most significant daily progress of 73 percent in its record. The current official number of cases is 64.
Text: Tigran Zakaryan
Photo: Yerevan Municipality

 

The Armenian parliament has convened for an extraordinary session on the Cabinet’s decision to declare state of emergency over the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. The state of emergency entered into effect upon its announcement on 16 March for a period of one month unless revoked by the parliament, as the Armenian constitution stipulates.

According to official figures, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Armenia totaled at 30 by the time the emergency state was announced, however over a few hours it hiked to 52, thus making the most significant daily progress of 73 percent in its record. The current official number of cases is 64.

Under the state of emergency regulations a special interagency body (headquarters) - including police chief, Director National Security Service and other relevant ministries – chaired by Deputy Prime Minster Tigran Avinyan was set up which has broad authorities to implement restrictions. Under the government decision public gatherings, events, including religious, sports, cultural events, weddings and/or funerals attended by over 20 people as well as strikes will be banned, educational institutions will remain closed as before the announcement of the emergency state. The decision also touches on media coverage on the epidemic situation, requiring to match it with the official viewpoint. The reason behind this, according to officials, is to avoid causing panic which could also be manipulated for political purposes by players inside and outside the country.

Until recently the number of the infected in Armenia, compared to some countries did not seem too impressive, however what matters here is the rate of the spread of the virus.

The first official case of the Coronavirus in Armenia was registered on 1 March

2020 and that figure did not change throughout the 10 consecutive days, which was inspiring for both officials and the general public. However the situation started to deteriorate with the announcement of new cases of Coronavirus at the rate of 2-3 people per day till 13 March and 7-8 people till 16 March. So far the worst day was 16 March when it became known of 22 new cases with one person recovered from the disease. Although initially the virus spread through external sources by people who arrived in Armenia from Iran, Italy and France, there are currently local much more important sources of the spread, the most significant among them being in the city of Vagharshapat. Although a virtual quarantine was imposed on the city day before imposing the emergency state, an announcement late in the evening of 16 March by Health Minster Arsen Torosyan stated that new cases have been localized in the city of Charentsavan, while earlier Coronavirus cases have been identified in Yerevan as well.

All this gives ground to presume that the number of cases in the immediate future will rise, however its growth rate can be contained if strict measures are imposed and properly carried out.  

Part of the solution is closing borders with the outside world, however for Armenia under blockade by its two neighbors for decades and no outlet to the sea this is not an easy thing to do. Armenia closed its land borders with Iran and Georgia on 24 February and 13 February respectively, making exceptions for nationals of Armenia, Iran and Georgia returning home as well as officials and cargo companies.

Armenian Foreign Minster Zohrab Mnatsakanyan at the cabinet sitting on 16 March suggested extending this regulation to all citizens of all nationalities, however it was met with apprehension by other officials, arguing, that closing air traffic would in practice mean closing it for cargo shipped by air. In any case it is certain that Armenia’s recovering economic, particularly tourism will suffer from an unexpected setback.

Another collateral damage of the Coronavirus spread in Armenia is the constitution referendum scheduled for 5 April. As the current constitution rules out holing a referendum under the state of emergency it has to be postponed till 50 to 65 days after its expiry.  

Meanwhile there are some critical remarks from different quarters on the lack of proactivity and slow reaction on the part of the government vis-à-vis the Cornoavirus challenges.  

During the parliament session on the pandemic leader of the Bright Armenian opposition party Edmon Marukyan noted that the document on emergency state did not specifically prescribe shutting down all enterprises with the exception of the most vital ones. Meanwhile Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan countered arguing that they want to avoid overreaction, which can hurt Armenian economics, which is and will certainly suffer significant losses due to the pandemic.  

This entire situation however requires extra efforts on the part of not only the government and relevant authorities but also the population at large. Meanwhile the pictures of supermarkets swarming with buyers in panic are still rare scenes in Armenia, they are undoubtedly yet to come. On the other hand citizens reacted with overly enthusiasm volunteering their services in combatting the Coronavirus, the Ministry for Emergency Situations said adding that the requests were too many to deal with, which is a reassuring sign.

Armenia, just as the rest of the humanity will need lots of patience, courage and a sense of common responsibility to combat what seems to be a serious challenge of global scale.

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