Remarks Delivered by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at National Assembly Debate on Declaring State of Emergency in the Republic of Armenia
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Honorable National Assembly Speaker,
Dear Members of Parliament,
The government has decided to declare a state of emergency in the Republic of Armenia, starting from 18:30 Yerevan time, due to the coronavirus epidemic.
I would like to state that at least for the moment we have no new information other than the information provided to date by the government, government agencies, myself, and the Ministry of Healthcare.
At the moment we have 30 confirmed coronavirus cases, and in fact, 19 of those 30 cases are related to the engagement party recently celebrated in Echmiadzin. Three more people have tested positive during this time.
The most troublesome cases are the ones diagnosed yesterday in one of Yerevan’s industrial enterprises. The range of contact with representatives of that manufacturing enterprise is being determined, and all infected employees will be isolated.
The need for a state of emergency was due to the following: We have been studying the Republic of Armenia Law on Emergency Situations for several days and it was clear to us that the Emergency Law did not provide for epidemic situations at all.
In fact, there is a so-called external influence when there is a natural disaster, a natural disaster, and in this situation it is necessary to organize and protect people's lives. That is to say, the Law on Emergency Situations, the law on providing support to the population, is designed for cases where the danger to human beings derives from, so to speak, external factors. And when a person's danger comes from another person and his or her behavior, those cases are not regulated.
Unfortunately, in the last 20 days we have witnessed cases where our beloved compatriots do not always follow the code of conduct proposed by the Ministry of Health and the Government to ensure the safety of themselves and their environment, their relatives and others, and in many cases have evolved so that there is a need for coercion.
And such measures, which presuppose that there should be a certain restriction of citizens' rights, can be applied only by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia in the case of protection of public health, and a certain restriction of personal freedoms in its turn is possible only in a state of emergency.
A state of emergency is possible when there is an immediate threat to the constitutional order. In this case, the immediate threat was considered to be, in essence, threatening the concept of a welfare state when citizens have a right to health, to health, and that right could, in fact, appear in an absolutely unprotected situation. In this case, the State is obliged to take extraordinary measures to secure that right.
In fact, a Commandant’s Office has been set up to ensure the implementation of health-related emergency measures. Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan was appointed Commandant during the state of emergency.
In fact, we have given new status to the commission, the working group which has been in operation since January 30, 2020. On January 30, 2020, by my decision, I ask you to pay attention to the date, a commission was set up to prevent the spread of coronavirus headed by Tigran Avinyan. And we are, in essence, giving this committee a new status in the light of new developments, and under Armenian law, that status is considered a state of emergency under the state of emergency.
At present, all our coronavirus-diagnosed patients are in good or sufficient condition. Good news is that our first diagnosed patient has been cured and discharged from hospital. And to say that being treated in this case is very relative, because in fact our health system has not but diagnosed and kept her in isolation.
During this time, even in spite of the initial fever that forced him to seek medical treatment, he was left in the hospital for 14 days without any medical intervention. During this time, the new diagnosis was repeated twice, the test was repeated once after expiration of 7 days and again positive. The last time yesterday was negative, and she was discharged from hospital and returned to normal life.
You are aware, of course, that the international statistics of coronavirus indicate that it is particularly dangerous for persons 70 and older, that is to say, approximately 90 percent of deaths are for persons 70 and older.
We have 3 patients over the age of 60 at this time. Only one of them carries pneumonia, the others go in the usual way or even have no fever, and at this moment the situation can be considered manageable for us.
Our biggest risk, in fact, today is with a workshop where a large number of people work, but we seem to have been able to identify and locate the frame of contact. But in these cases you can never be 100% sure, and this is also the reason for the decision to declare a state of emergency.
According to the decision, the repatriation of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia is guaranteed by all means, both by land and by air. Foreign citizens may enter the Republic of Armenia. Exceptions will be countries which by the decision of the Minister of Healthcare will be considered as epidemic, citizens coming from those countries and foreign citizens who have been in such countries for the last 14 days. The entry of people from this group into the Republic of Armenia will be banned.
The exit of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia will be blocked on all two land borders, the exit of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia by air will not be prohibited. Foreigners will be banned by land, and will not be banned by air. We will provide entry to the Republic of Armenia for persons with residence status, and the exit will naturally be provided as well. Only those citizens of the Republic of Armenia can leave the country by land, who carry freight.
We have also ensured with our partner countries that freight is fully secured, carried out as far as possible in these conditions.
As far as food security issues are concerned, according to reports today there are sufficient food supplies in the Republic of Armenia and even allowing for export problems there will be no food shortages in Armenia for the next month.
Imports of other commodities are also carried out to a sufficient extent, and the clerk and the Commandant has appropriate decision-making powers to ensure the import of commodities to the Republic of Armenia.
The Commandant has the power to prohibit or restrict the export of certain products, and this relates mainly to health-related products and accessories, and their export will be possible only with the Commandant’s permission.
I think the strictest restrictions affect the dissemination of information. Please note that only coronavirus-related information is at stake under those restrictions. No other restrictions shall be applicable to the criticism of government or political life. The arrangement only affects the dissemination of information on developments related to the coronavirus, and this information should be consistent with the official updates.
I hope that all Armenian citizens are convinced that the government provides accurate and updated information, and this has been our strategy since the first days. No citizen of the Republic of Armenia should doubt that there is any information about the coronavirus that he or she should know and which is important at all, and that the government will in any way avoid disclosing that information.
Let me also mention that there are restrictions on public gatherings. In general, assemblies have been banned nationwide. The ones supposed to involve more than 20 people shall be prohibited subject to Commandant’s decision. I mean weddings, parties, celebrations, that is, the Commandant has the power to impose a ban on such events in certain areas.
And here, I think, the most sensitive issue has to do with funerals. We say there may be areas where we would ask our compatriots to abide by the rule of no more than 20 people attending the funeral.
After today’s session, specific measures will be taken, after which, according to the Constitution, the government will address the people, providing updates on the measures that we are going to take.
Strategically, of course, the fact that a state of emergency has been imposed in the country means that we are facing a crisis. But I want to say that our strategic approach is as follows: we must come out of this crisis stronger in both economic, public and health terms. I also said at a government meeting that estimates suggest that as a result of the crisis, the world’s gross output will have been reduced by about USD 2 trillion by the end of 2020. This means that as much room will be vacated in the economic field. Of course, we, too, will suffer losses, but certain niches will be available on the global market, and our economic policy should be aimed at increasing Armenia's economic presence in those areas and maximizing economic activity in Armenia.
I cited some examples during today’s consultations: For example, we have long argued that serious steps must be taken to develop online banking and online services. This is an opportunity for us to finally be able to focus more on these facilities so that citizens could get the most out of online banking and shopping, which is a more civilized practice and implies a higher quality of life and relationships.
Therefore, dear colleagues, I would like to answer your questions. I would like to assure you that the Armenian government and the Parliament, in particular, will refrain from imposing any restrictions on the situation, and we will do our utmost to ensure that the decision on declaring a state of emergency be justified and effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Thank you.