11:30 p.m.: In his closing address in parliament, PM Pashinyan announced that there are 15 new cases and this highlights that the state of emergency is timely. “To go or not to go to work, yes go to work if you don't have chronic health issues, if you are not over 60 or pregnant and if you don't have the option of working from home,” he said urging citizens to check their temperature, to disinfect their surroundings, follow procedures for hygiene.
Pashinyan said: “We heard here today insinuations that the government has not done this or that right. Let us say that we have not, but 158 countries of the world have coronavirus, there are countries with obviously poor governance but let us look at some of the other countries like Norway (1256 cases, three deaths); the Netherlands (1135 cases, 20 deaths); Sweden (1040 cases, eight deaths), Switzerland, famous for its high standards (2217 cases, 14 deaths); Israel (213 cases); Ireland 170 cases, two deaths); Estonia 171 cases.”
Expanding aviation networks and making the country more appealing to tourists contributed perhaps to the situation, but Armenia cannot live in isolation, he said adding that their main goal is to now make sure they do everything in their power to prevent any deaths.
Pashinyan said that in 2019, nine people died in Armenia from H1N1, 30 people died of H1N1 in 2016, 50 people died of the disease in 2009 and no one really knows how many people were infected. He noted that Facebook was not so popular at the time and no one was taking photos of three people in a queue at a store and sharing it to social media saying the country is being destroyed. This is a global pandemic, he went on and countries that have no cases is not necessarily a good indication for them, this means they are isolated from the rest of the world.
“Let us register that we have stepped into new times with new rules and let us tie this reality to the logic of our revolution. It is clear that the old ways in the world no longer exist and let us make sure that we are not left under the weight of those old ways and let us create new opportunities for ourselves. Let us be attentive towards citizens above 60 years of age, let us try to avoid fatalities and not demonize the situation. Regarding the economic situation, our goal should not be to restore the status we had on February 29, 2020, we should make projections, think ahead to February 29 of next year and the year after. As a nation, country and economy we should increase our competitiveness. I call on everyone to keep calm, think clearly. All problems are solvable if we register that this is a crisis, which means it is time for hard work. Let us work and make sure that our efforts are effective. Health to all.”
11:00 p.m.: Armenia’s Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan has announced on his Facebook page that Armenia has 15 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, some of the patients are already in quarantine, and the extent of their contact with others is being clarified.
Armenia currently has 45 confirmed cases, 1 of whom has recovered.
As of March 16, 22:00, 694 coronavirus tests have been carried out in Armenia, with 45 positive results; 87 patients are currently hospitalized at Nork Infectious Diseases Hospital.
9:30 p.m.: The spokesperson of the Ministry of Health posted the following on her Facebook page: The Ministry of Health is recruiting volunteers to carry out various activities due to the coronavirus outbreak:
– Students from the medical university; nurses
– Data entry clerks
– Psychologists, social workers and others with relevant specialties and skills
There is also a need for volunteer drivers and technicians who are willing to help with the delivery of medication and nutrition.
You can call the following numbers: 098 86 05 89, 077 37 11 15
9:00 p.m.: Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan issued the following statement on his Facebook page: In response to the questions raised in parliament regarding the number of artificial respirators in the country and the suggestion that “the public needs to know that these are not enough,” I wish to inform the public of the following:
– At the moment, there are 334 artificial respirators in Armenia.
– At the moment, we have 15 respirators on reserve specifically for potential coronavirus patients.
– In 3-4 days, we will have an additional 11 respirators we have brought from Russia.
– In 10-15 days, we will have an additional 10 respirators, brought from China.
8:30 p.m.: The Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II issued a statement regarding the spread of coronavirus in Armenia, urging priests and parishioners to be cautious and avoid public gatherings. The statement also says that until Holy Thursday, Church service hours will be from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Liturgies will be conducted without the participation of people, wedding ceremonies will not be performed, while baptisms will be performed when necessary. The Catholicos also urged people to avoid organizing large funerals and spiritual gatherings that can be attended by a lot of people.
To curb the spread of the COVID-19, the European Union is planning to ban the travel of foreign nationals within the Union. Exceptions may be only in emergency situations.
7 p.m.: During a special session of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addressed parliament and explained the government’s position regarding the decision to call a state of emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that the biggest concern they have at the moment is the factory in Yerevan where approximately 500 people work and where an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The Prime Minister said that he believes they have been able to identify all those people that this person has come into contact with.
Pashinyan also restated that Armenian citizens will be able to return to the country, except for those who are in countries where the epidemic is severe.
During his address, the Prime Minister said that the most restrictive measures pertain to the media, however, he said that this refers only to information disseminated about the coronavirus and nothing else, and all news should reference official sources only.
Pashinyan noted that there are also restrictions regarding public gatherings; all gatherings across the country of more than 20 people are forbidden. He said that after the parliament session, as is foreseen by law, the Government will address the nation and present not only the latest news but also the action plan.
“The fact that we have imposed a state of emergency in the country also means we have a crisis,” Pashinyan said adding that their strategic approach is to come out of this crisis healthy and stronger economically and socially. According to the Prime Minister, predictions show that in 2020, as a result of this crisis, the world economy will lose about 2 trillion dollars. “But this also means that new spaces will open in the economic sphere,” he said adding that naturally, Armenia’s economy will also be impacted but that their strategy will be to increase Armenia’s presence in the newly opened spaces and maximize economic activity in the country. Pashinyan said that the government will do everything in its power to make sure that the state of emergency, which will last till April 14, is wholly justified and effective in fighting coronavirus.
Question: MP Edmon Marukyan, Leader of Bright Armenia parliamentary faction
Why is the prime minister not the Special Commissioner overseeing the state of emergency? Will the tests be available in the regions of Armenia and where should people ask for them? Does the government, other than what is foreseen by the state of emergency document, have a plan of action to address the economic crisis, like people not being able to pay their utilities or rents, will there be a government subsidy program?
And it is not yet clear what is allowed or prohibited. People are asking, can they go out in the streets or it is not clear when and where gatherings of less than 20 people are allowed. Or is it fine for nightclubs to be open and for people to go dancing?
Answer: Nikol Pashinyan
The commissioner has the responsibility to determine the areas where restaurants or entertainment facilities are not allowed to operate. Meaning if at a given point there is no decision to shut down businesses in a certain area, then they are allowed to operate.
The government is trying to find a balance between people’s heath and their economic situation. That is why we have not made the decision to shut down all businesses, not to deprive the people in the industry of their income. Such a decision will be made in an operative way depending on the situation.
Why is the Deputy Prime Minister the Special Commissioner and not me? As I’ve already said, what we have done is change the status of the already existing working group (headed by Avinyan) fighting the spread of the virus.
As for having the tests in the regions, what is important here is not to only have them available but also having the people who would administer them professionally. Today we only have three laboratories, all in Yerevan, the results of whose tests are trustworthy. The procedure here does not change, wherever the person is, he/she will have to contact the police or the emergency services and the available medical staff will determine if the person needs to be tested or not. I’ll give you my own personal example, I saw in the video that I was shaking hands with a person confirmed to have the virus, I checked my temperature and saw that it was high but the Minister was saying the possibility of me having the virus is zero point something.
Question: MP, Anush Begloyan
Why declare a state of emergency now and not sooner like other countries? What were the critical facts that made that decision applicable today?
Answer: Nikol Pashinyan
The number of infected in the country has quadrupled in the last couple of days. It is this dynamic that made us believe that the usual measures are not sufficient. And we found out yesterday that people who knew they were in the contact zone had gone into hiding for days and security forces had to seek them out. The other concern is that we had a case at a factory where 500 people work. Also, days ago we had a school child test positive. These are indicators that emergency measures are needed. And as you know, we have restricted movement from the city of Etchmiadzin since yesterday and discovered 129 people with high temperatures attempting to leave the city. We can ask them to return home and self-quarantine, but they can also refuse to do so. In cases like this and similar to the woman in Etchmiadzin, who even though was registered as being at risk, did not collaborate, therefore the government needs tools to take action. The Constitution states that you can impose a state of emergency when there is a threat to the constitutional order. By doing this we are restricting the constitutional rights of our citizens and need to have serious reasons for doing so; the Constitution says it has to be an imminent threat.
Question: MP, Arusyak Julhagyan
Many would like to know given the situation, what will happen to the Constitutional Referendum?
Answer: Nikol Pashinyan
The law says that there can be no referendum if a state of emergency has been declared in the country. The referendum will take place once the emergency situation has been lifted no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days later.
Question: MP, Gor Gevorgyan
In case the number of people having the virus and those of exposed grows exponentially, do we have the appropriate health facilities to provide the services in the same quality as we do now?
Answer: Nikol Pashinyan
We have a plan to accommodate up to 800 to 1000 people at this point. In mid-February we started the process of moving all patients from the Nork Infectious Diseases Hospital to other facilities, freeing up the hospital for only coronavirus patients. We have a second similar hospital 100% ready as well. We also have a 3rd and 4th reserve facility. All these four facilities together will be able to accomodate 100-1500 people. The same is true for quarantine. In addition to the 300 plus people currently in quarantine, we have the potential to quarantine an additional 400 people.
8 p.m.: The Armenian President's office issued a statement welcoming the government's decision to declare a state of emergency and thanking healthcare workers for their efforts. In the statement, President Armen Sarkissian mentioned a number of principles that need to be prioritized while fighting coronavirus: the government, citizens, business community, non-governmental organizations, and all citizens need to have a clear strategy on how to fight the virus. He went on to speak about the importance of being organized and disciplined, following procedures and trying to minimize contact with other people. And finally, the President mentioned the importance of the sense of responsibility towards one another.
6:30 p.m.: At a press conference, Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said that as of yesterday evening, there are 30 cases of coronavirus, plus one person recovered. Torosyan said that the condition of all the patients is stable, two of them have pneumonia but there is no threat to their lives.
The Health Minister said that as of this morning, 380 people have been quarantined. That number will most probably increase to 420-430 people, but they will make an official statement when that happens. He said that an additional 20 people have been tested (as per the latest information at hand), but he suspects that number will reach 50-60 people.
5:30 p.m.: Returning from a one-hour break, the government session reconvened.
With a unanimous vote, the Government of Armenia decided to impose a 30-day state of emergency in the country starting March 16. The decision will come into effect from the moment of the publication of the official text of the document. The parliament of Armenia is then by law required to assemble for a special session within four hours of the publication. The parliament can then vote to cancel the state of emergency.
All citizens of Armenia and their family members (who are not citizens of Armenia) will be allowed to come into the country. Also, those with special residency permits, representatives of diplomatic missions based in Armenia and their family members, and representatives of foreign states who are in Armenia on official visits will be allowed in the country. Those who have been in highly affected countries, identified by the Special Commission, in the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter the country (except the representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations and their family members).
The exit of Armenian citizens as well as foreign nationals through land borders (except those carrying out cargo transportation) will be prohibited. All citizens who wish to travel via air outside of Armenia are allowed as long as the host country does not have any specific restrictions for the citizens of Armenia. Foreign nationals may also leave the territory of Armenia via air.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he had a telephone conversation with President Bako Sahakyan of Artsakh. Taking into consideration the situation, they are urging citizens to travel to Artsakh or Armenia only if absolutely necessary. He said that the temperature of all travelers will be taken at the checkpoint and if they present with a high temperature, they will have to return to their place of residence.
Regarding financial systems and the economy, Pashinyan said that Armenia’s banking system is stable with plenty of foreign currency reserves. He also said that the Central Bank of Armenia is prepared to assist banks and that each individual bank will have the flexibility to extend payments on loans for businesses and individuals.
3:00 p.m.: During a special Government session today, Armenia’s government discussed the call for a state of emergency in the country starting from March 16 (5 p.m.) to April 16, 2020 (9 a.m.). [There was some discrepancy with the start date of the state of emergency in later discussions during the session. EVN Report will clarify and adjust accordingly]. According to Article 120 of the Republic of Armenia’s Constitution, the State of Emergency is in effect immediately upon being declared by the Government. The State of Emergency triggers a National Assembly session under Article 48 of the Constitutional Law on Parliamentary Procedure. Parliament has four hours to secure a quorum, after which the session is in order, even without the numbers for a quorum. The session can cancel the state of emergency.
The State of Emergency will be overseen by a Special Commission (Superintendent's Office), which will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.
Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan read a statement regarding the necessity of the declaration of a state of emergency. Below are the major points raised in that statement:
Considering the spread of the COVID-19 in Armenia and especially in the city of Etchmiadzin, the importance of protecting the public health, prioritizing the implementation of measures that would stop the spread of the virus, and taking into account that the spread of the virus will further increase if the necessary preventive measures are not taken into account, the government declared a state of emergency.
In a statement, Badasyan said that the Article 120 of the Constitution allows the state to declare the state of emergency if there is an imminent threat to the constitutional order and to the well being of its citizens. He also said that preventive measures will be more difficult to implement if the number of infected people increases, which consequently, will undermine the protection of citizens and limit the protection of their individual freedoms
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan will head the Special Commission (Superintendent’s Office). The Chief of Staff of the PM’s Office, Ministers of Health, Emergency Situations, Economy, Finance, and Territorial Administration and Infrastructures, as well as the Chief of Police, Head of the National Security Service, and a number of inspection bodies will be included in the paretatun. Measures implemented during the state of emergency and the temporary limits placed on individual rights and freedoms will be applied to the entire territory of Armenia or the specific territories identified by the Special Commission.
During the period of state of emergency it will be prohibited to organize and participate in protests, public events (including religious events, concerts, exhibitions), celebrations and commemorative events (including birthdays, engagements, weddings and funerals). The draft law on the state of emergency also sets special procedures for the entrance of people and transportation to Armenia through all of its state borders. According to the restrictions, all citizens of Armenia can enter the territory of Armenia, people coming from countries that Armenia’s Ministry of Health has identified as being in serious epidemic situations will be prohibited from entering the territory of Armenia (except the representatives of diplomatic missions, international organizations, and other instances identified by the Special Commission).
All persons entering the territory of Armenia will immediately undergo a special examination at the check-point, and if any symptoms of the infection are detected, hospitalization, isolation (self-isolation) or other restrictive measures will be implemented. If people entering the territory of Armenia refuse to undergo medical examination, hospitalization, isolation (self-isolate), the Special Commission may temporarily isolate those people to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as to organize their examination and treatment.
Special checkpoints may be placed to ensure the implementation of the state of emergency. Medical check-ups at those checkpoints may be carried out by medical staff, the Ministry of Health, and representatives of inspection bodies.
During the entire period of the state of emergency, classes in all of state educational institutions as well as international educational institutions will be suspended.
It is prohibited to send packages to the military units of the Defense Ministry, and to have visitations. Having visitations and sending packages to penitentiary institutions, mental health care centers, as well as to centers providing social services to senior citizens and children will also be prohibited. According to the curfew, the activities of public catering facilities, shopping and entertainment centers in specific communities can be suspended. Further measures can be implemented by curfew, if necessary.
According to the text of the state of emergency document, read by Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan at the beginning of the government session, individuals posting on social media platforms and media organizations, when writing or reporting about COVID19, will be obliged to refer to official sources only. When these requirements are not adhered to, they will need to be immediately removed.
PM Nikol Pashinyan clarified that with the formation of a Special Commission on the state of emergency/curfew, the government is changing the status of the Task Force for Coronavirus Prevention.
After discussing more details of the state of emergency, the government session took a one hour break. The final details will be clarified at that point.
1:00 p.m.: Speaker of Armenia’s National Assembly (NA), Ararat Mirzoyan said in a Facebook post that he has already spoken with the heads of parliamentary factions and asked them to prepare parliamentarians from their respective factions for a possible special parliamentary session.
Mirzoyan also published the relevant article of the NA Rules of Procedure, Article 48, which sets the procedure for convening and holding a special session in case of a state of emergency.
Article 48. Procedure for Convening and Holding a Special Sitting in case of a Declaration of a State of Emergency
1. In case of a declaration of a state of emergency, a special sitting of the National Assembly shall be immediately convened by virtue of law.
2. If, within four hours of the promulgation of the Government's resolution on declaring a state of emergency, the number of registered Deputies is not sufficient for the quorum of the sitting, then the sitting starts irrespective of whether there is or isn't eligibility.
3. During the debate of the issue:
1) the Prime Minister or a representative of the Government shall take the floor with the main report, whom, after a speech, may be asked questions;
2) there shall be no co-report;
3) in the course of a debate, only one representative from the standing committees and factions may take the floor.
4. If, before the completion of the debate of the issue, the legality of the sitting:
1) is provided, the head or secretary of the faction may submit a draft resolution of the National Assembly on the abolition of a state emergency or any of the events foreseen by a legal regime of the state of emergency. The decision of the faction is submitted with the draft. The draft shall be put to a vote without discussion immediately after the concluding speech. The resolution shall be adopted and announced as the prescribed procedure by parts 4 and 5 of Article 107 of the Rules of Procedure. If the resolution is not adopted, then such a draft can be submitted no earlier than a month. After the voting, the officer presiding the sitting shall declare the special sitting concluded;
2) is not provided, the presiding officer shall declare the special sitting concluded.
11:15 a.m.: PM Pashinyan went live on Facebook, providing further updates on the situation. He confirmed that of the 30 people infected, 20 can be traced back to the case in Etchmiadzin. He said that they have tested a number of people and the Minister of Health hopes to be able to contain further transmission of the virus. The government will be having an extraordinary session at 15:00 local time, which will be livestreamed to discuss the possibility of calling for a State of Emergency.
What pertains to the situation in Etchmiadzin (roads being monitored), Pashinyan said that 129 citizens have had high temperatures and were asked to return home. He said that he would like to present an honor to the very first person with coronavirus [who arrived in Armenia from Tehran and was confirmed to have the virus on March 1] whose sense of social responsibility stopped the spread of the virus. But the most gratitude should go to the medical staff in Armenian who are on the forefront of fighting the virus.
The Prime Minister said that since Friday, they have started discussions about how to ensure that the economy will not be impacted adversely and they will hold another session today at noon in that regard.
To date, 300 people have been quarantined and authorities are preparing spaces for more to be quarantined. Pashinyan called on citizens to keep checking their temperatures, but to also not panic if they have high temperature, he himself had a high temperature when he decided to get tested for the second time and yet the results of the test were negative.
Pashinyan said it is estimated that Armenia has enough food supplies for a month without any imports, however going a month without imports is not likely. He said that they know that many companies and organizations have found themselves in a difficult financial situation and that they are discussing ways to alleviate the financial strain.
10:30 a.m.: The Yerevan Municipality released the following statement:
From March 17, with the intention of curtailing the of spread of coronavirus and on the recommendation of the Ministry of Health, the following measures are being put into place:
– The “One Window” office in the main building of Yerevan Municipality (Argishti 1) will be closed.
– Citizen applications will be handled at the municipal building at 1/3 Buzand Street.
– Citizens' receptions by department heads and administrative district staff will be stopped.
– Municipal and administrative staff will not engage in any kind of meetings, meetings, events, unless they are conducted remotely.
– All administrative and municipal hearings are postponed.
– We urge citizens to use the online tools available on the municipality's official website to make payments and access applications.
– For applications, go to the following website: http://arcanc.yerevan.am/en/fast-app/
The statement also included hotlines in the Yerevan municipality as well as in all administrative districts.
Yerevan municipality hotline 1-05, open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For emergency situations, call 1-08, always open
Other administrative districts:
Achapnyag +(374 11) 518-008, Avan +(374 11) 518-111, Arabgir +(374 11) 518-188, Davtashen +(374 11) 518-288, Erebuni +(374 11) 518-388, Center district +(374 11) 518-488, Malatia-Sebastia +(374 11) 518-588, Nor Nork +(374 11) 518-688, Nork Marash +(374 11) 518-718, Nubarashen +(374 11) 518-738, Shengavit +(374 11) 518-808, Kanaker Zeytun +(374 11) 518-889
8:40 a.m.: Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan announced that there are two more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 30 people infected. One case is connected to Etchmiadzin (this person had already been quarantined). The second is connected to a case from yesterday. One person has fully recovered.
8:17 a.m.: Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan announced that a charter plane bringing Armenian citizens home from Italy arrived in Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport. All passengers were provided with protective gear and upon arrival were placed in a 14-day quarantine in an undisclosed location.
8:15 a.m.: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in a FB live informed people that his second coronavirus test came back negative. He is already back in Yerevan. He said that today the government will be making a decision about whether or not they will be declaring a state of emergency in the country. In the meantime, he urged citizens to follow instructions by the authorities, in particular the health ministry.
Pashinyan said that as of last night, there have been no new cases. The number of infected is holding at 28 people at the moment, but one of those infected is a person from Yerevan, who works in a company. They are now in the process of assessing who this person has come into contact with to isolate them.
The Prime Minister said that in the next two hours the government will convene and even if a state of emergency is called, he assured citizens that not much will change, but it will require stricter measures in hotspots like Etchmiadzin. He reiterated the measures in place for the city – only three routes open out of 27 and anyone traveling on those routes will be stopped and tested. Those found to have a temperature will be required to self-quarantine in their homes until appropriate measures are taken.
He asked citizens to pay special attention to those over 70 years of age and those who have chronic illnesses because they are especially vulnerable. He urged all those who fall into those groups to stay home
Regarding potential shortage of goods, Pashinyan said that at the moment there is no reason to be concerned and to avoid panic shopping. He said that if the government feels that there are any problems, they will let people know.
And finally, the Prime Minister noted that international markets will no doubt be affected and we will need to find ways to come out of this positively believing in the entrepreneurial spirit of the Armenian people.