Opposition lambasts government-backed location data bill




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. The opposition parties of the Armenian parliament will vote down the government-backed bill on introducing a location data mechanism for tracing direct contacts of coronavirus patients by using mobile carrier data.

MP Edmon Marukyan, the leader of the Bright Armenia (LHK) opposition party, said that the mechanism would require major funding, whereas now the country needs the resources to tackle social economic issues. Instead of this mechanism Marukyan suggested developing social assistance programs. “The LHK disapproves this bill, we are against yielding our liberties,” he said, adding that his party will vote against the bill.

Speaking on behalf of Prosperous Armenia (BHK) opposition party, legislator Naira Zohrabyan called on the government to retract the bill. “Who says that people must definitely arrange their meetings over the phone? I think the majority of meetings are taking place impromptu,” she said, adding that the BHK will vote against the bill.

Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan argued that the opposition’s reaction is due to the fact that the lawmakers didn’t have enough time to scrutinize the bill.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

iUniversity first online educational platform launched in Armenia




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. iUniversity, the first Armenian online educational platform, has been launched in the National Polytechnic University of Armenia (NPUA), the government told Armenpress.

iUniversity serves the NPUA, including the Gyumri, Kapan and Vanadzor branches, as well as the university’s college and high school.

The online platform allows to register all beneficiaries, create a list of subjects and homework for each group and class, study materials, e-library, enables to download video lectures, as well as allows students and school-children to ask their questions to teachers and lecturers, etc.

It also allows to monitor the online study process to find shortcomings and gaps to control the process and propose new tools to improve the shortcomings.

The NPUA expressed readiness to provide all the opportunities and technical service of iUniversity to those educational facilities which need that.

Armenia has declared a state of emergency on March 16 to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). All schools, universities, public places are currently shut down. The state of emergency is effective until April 14. According to the latest data, number of people infected with the new coronavirus in Armenia is 482.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

Armenian President congratulates China’s Xi on great progress in COVID-19 fight




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Armenian President’s Office told Armenpress.

President Sarkissian congratulated the Chinese counterpart on the great progress recorded in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Armenian President said in the latter the epidemic was possible to restrain due to the decisive measures of the Chinese government, as well as thanks to the people’s selfless dedication. “The new coronavirus pandemic once again proved that the international cooperation and solidarity are the only effective tools to resist the global challenges as no region in the world can avoid the spread of the virus”, the Armenian President said.

Highlighting consistent strengthening and deepening of traditional close cooperation with China, President Sarkissian, by using this chance, expressed his deepest gratitude to China for the continuous assistance provided to Armenia to prevent and overcome the virus.

Considering China’s experience in preventing and effectively fighting the spread of the virus instructive for Armenia, President Sarkissian also proposed to consider further assistance to Armenia from China in providing equipment, necessary items, as well as in the form of professional support.

In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, central China. WHO declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global pandemic and named the virus COVID-19. Cases of coronavirus have been reported in over 195 countries.

China reported a total of 81,470 cases so far. On March 29 the Chinese authorities announced the stop of the spread of the disease inside the country.

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia has reached 482.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

Coronavirus: Armenian government develops respective mechanisms to assist tourism




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian government has developed respective mechanisms for supporting the private sector operating in tourism field during the current state of emergency declared in the country due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Chairwoman of the Tourism Committee Susanna Safaryan said at a press conference.

“Tourism is one of the most affected sectors due to the coronavirus. We can say that at the moment the number of tourism visits in Armenia and all over the world reaches 0, therefore, this sector is considered more vulnerable than the others. The private sector representatives involved in providing tourism services, such as the hotels, the guesthouses, tourism subjects, whose main consumer was the tourism, are currently facing damages. For this situation many discussions were held recently with various tourism subjects, including with incoming, outgoing tour-operators, tour-guides, hotel, guest-house representatives and others who faced damages due to the spread of coronavirus”, she said, adding that various mechanisms for assisting tourism sector were discussed recently.

She said the first measure is co-lending or re-lending, meaning that the private sector representatives can apply for lending to receive 50% support from the state. Susanna Safaryan said these sums can be used for paying the salaries of their employees, state or community budget payments, paying for fees or mandatory payments, as well as paying for utilities. Safaryan said this assistance can a little bit mitigate the losses the representatives of this sector are currently facing.

According to the third measure, lending support is envisaged to the small and medium enterprises operating in the tourism sector. This measure supposes lending to those subjects whose turnover is within 24-500 million drams. “I don’t rule out that there will be subjects that may be excluded from these assistance funds, but we are discussing various measures to meet also their needs”, she said.  

Armenia has declared a state of emergency on March 16 to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The state of emergency is effective until April 14. According to the latest data, number of people infected with the new coronavirus in Armenia is 482.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

COVID-19: European Union stands by Armenia




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission stands by Eastern Partner countries and has reallocated €140 million for the most immediate needs including for Armenia. In addition, the Commission will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €700 million across the region to help mitigate socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, the EU Delegation to Armenia told Armenpress.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi said: “These are very difficult times not only for the EU, but for our partner countries, such as Armenia, as well. We have to do what we can to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on human lives and livelihoods. Today’s package responds both to the immediate needs of the health systems, as well as a longer term needs to the most vulnerable groups in society and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the economies in the six countries”. 

Responding to immediate needs:

Support to the Armenian health system: At the request of the partner countries, including Armenia, the Commission will respond to immediate needs by supporting the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits. The European Commission is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is deploying €30 million to ensure these necessary supplies are jointly purchased and effectively distributed to the health systems of the six countries in the coming weeks. In addition, the funds will support national health administrations to train medical and laboratory staff and carry out awareness raising measures to the wider population.

Support to the people who are most affected by the crisis, together with civic partners: The EU has made available more than €11.3 million in small grants to civil society organisations across the region. These funds are already responding to immediate needs, through the ongoing regional “Rapid Response Mechanism”, such as supporting local schools with distance learning. In Armenia, a project with the Red Cross will be launched in the coming days to support the elderly, vulnerable families, and people with disabilities. By the summer, and as part this package, the Commission will the launch of the “Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme” which will target the most affected parts of the populations through civil society support and notably sub-grants to smaller, local organisations. Additionally a new call for proposals, worth €3 million, was launched on 25 March, to support civil society organisations contribute to social well-being, including those impacted by the COVID19 outbreak.

Mitigating socio-economic impact of the outbreak:

Support to Armenia’s economy, notably small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): The EU is working closely with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and relevant financing institutions from EU Member States as TEAM EUROPE providing a coordinated European response for the real economy, including SMEs, in particular through:

  • Launching of a new regional support programme of €100 million to help SMEs, including self-employed and others to easily access credit and boost their businesses after the crisis. This will be complemented by a new support programme targeting Armenian SMEs worth €13 million
  • The EU is also exploring to mobilise over €30 million from existing programmes in coordination with the Armenian government
  • Facilitating, simplifying, accelerating, and reinforcing €200 million worth of existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency including through its EU4Business Initiative;
  • In addition, in the current crisis the EU has mobilised its major de-risking instrument worth €500 million, the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD). This will rapidly provide liquidly and can be urgently deployed by IFI partners to facilitate the provision of liquidity in the EU’s Neighbourhood including through working capital, trade finance, or moratoria on debt service.

The EU is also reorienting ongoing support programmes to address Armenia's needs to respond to the pandemic. As a result, €1.75 million has already been disbursed under a Public Finance Policy Reform budget support programme to provide immediate support to the government.

In parallel, a new Twinning programme of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in partnership with the Swedish and Lithuanian civilian protection agencies has been approved and will start soon to improve civil protection and disaster risk management.

The Commission also stands ready to provide assistance to Armenia through TAIEX, its peer to peer instrument, by using EU Member States expertise, experience and examples of good practice on assessing emergency preparedness response scheme and health systems.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated spread of myths and disinformation around it– coming from various sources both within and outside of the European Union. Learn more in the report on Disinformation on the coronavirus.

Armenia tourism industry’s Q1 losses estimated at $134,7 million as Q2 projections are worse




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian tourism industry has suffered approximately 134,750,000 dollars in losses in Q1 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s tourism committee said.

Tourism Committee chief Susanna Safaryan told a news conference that the tourism flow to the country in the first three months of 2020 was 175,000 tourists less than usual. However, Safaryan said they haven’t done official calculations yet.  

“If we calculate how much one tourist is spending in Armenia, then it would be approximately 175 thousand times 770 dollars. This is a very significant loss for the tourism industry given the fact that the first quarter isn’t even the most active season,” she said, adding that the Q2 may be worse because of the closed borders and suspended flights.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

Georgia declares curfew – Gruzia Online




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. Georgia has declared curfew. ARMENPRESS reports Gruzia Online informs that people's movement will be restricted from 21:00 to 06:00, Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia announced.

''Full-scale quarantine is declared during the state of emergency. Starting from 21:00 to 06:00 people's movement on foot or by transport is forbidden”, Gakharia said.

Under the regime of quarantine people aged 70 or above are not allowed to go out. There will be exceptions only for the cases if the citizens goes to a grocery, pharmacy or medical facility nearby his house.

Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan

IOC announces new dates for Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan today agreed new dates for the games of the XXXII Olympiad, in 2021, the IOC said today.

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

They also agreed on new dates for the Paralympic Games, which will be celebrated from 24 August until 5 September 2021.

The leaderships of the key parties came together via telephone conference earlier today, joined by IOC President Thomas Bach, Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshirō, Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko and Olympic and Paralympic Minister Hashimoto Seiko, and agreed on the new schedule.

This decision was taken based on three main considerations and in line with the principles established by the IOC Executive Board (EB) on 17 March 2020 and confirmed at its meeting today. These were supported by all the International Summer Olympic Sports Federations (IFs) and all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs):

  1. To protect the health of the athletes and everyone involved, and to support the containment of the COVID-19 virus.
  2. To safeguard the interests of the athletes and of Olympic sport.
  3. The global international sports calendar.

These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 (Olympic Games: 24 July to 9 August 2020 and Paralympic Games: 25 August to 6 September 2020), also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs. Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented.

On March 24 a decision was to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

13-year old domestic violence victim starts walking with the help of doctors




YEREVAN, MARCH 30, ARMENPRESS. The 13-year old girl who was subjected to domestic vilence weeks ago in Gyumri and was hospitalized in critical condition has strated to walk with the help of doctors, ARMENPRESS reports spokesperson of Surb Astvatsamayr medical center Gevorg Derdzyan wrote on his facebook page.

Gevorg Derdzyan added that she remain under the supervision of the doctors and continues receiving relevant treatment.

A 13-year-old girl from Gyumri was severely battered on March 5 and was transported to a Yerevan hospital in critical condition.  The girl underwent an emergency surgery in Gyumri before being taken to Yerevan.

The head of the hospital Nikolay Dallakyan said the girl has suffered multiple traumas, closed-head injury, cerebral edema, subarachnoid hemorrhage, fractures of multiple facial bones.

The victim was rushed to Yerevan from Gyumri at 01:30 March 6. She was on assisted ventilation and unconscious. Dallakyan said the girl is in a critical condition, but stable. He added that the brain trauma is very serious.

After the child was taken to a hospital in Gyumri on March 5, police officers were dispatched to the apartment where the incident had taken place. First responders found the child’s 43-year-old mother dead. Her body had traces of violence.

Gyumri police said they’ve a 28-year-old suspect in custody.

Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan

Central Bank of Armenia: exchange rates and prices of precious metals




YEREVAN, 30 MARCH, ARMENPRESS. The Central Bank of Armenia informs “Armenpress” that today, 30 March, USD exchange rate up by 2.37 drams to 500.80 drams. EUR exchange rate up by 6.12 drams to 554.34 drams. Russian Ruble exchange rate down by 0.10 drams to 6.30 drams. GBP exchange rate up by 11.31 drams to 620.19 drams.

The Central Bank has set the following prices for precious metals.

Gold price down by 157.20 drams to 26040.3 drams. Silver price down by 0.51 drams to 230.49 drams. Platinum price up by 56.54 drams to 11947.01 drams.