Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addresses the nation
Proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia,
Since March 16, 2020, a state of emergency has been declared in the Republic of Armenia in connection with a new type of coronavirus. The state of emergency expired on April 14, but we had to extend it for another month, because, unfortunately, the crisis has not been overcome not only in Armenia, but all over the world.
The global indicators of the epidemic are as follows: at the moment 2 million 181 thousand 508 cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in the world. 147 thousand 337 people died from coronavirus, 552 thousand 264 people have recovered.
The situation in the Republic of Armenia is as follows: we have 1201 confirmed cases, 402 people have recovered and, unfortunately, 19 people have died. The average age of our compatriots who died from coronavirus is 73.8 years. All deceased patients had severe concomitant diseases, including cancer, hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease and so on. As of April 17, 780 people are undergoing treatment for coronavirus in our hospitals, about 1,700 people remain in isolation; 2,647 people are self-isolated.
Despite this alarming statistics, I consider it necessary to emphasize that owing to the efforts exerted by our healthcare and public administration systems, the spread of infection is under control. Nearly half the make-shift wards in hospitals went vacant during this period. This is one of the most important indicators in the fight against the epidemic, as in many developed countries there have been cases where hospitals have not been able to accommodate infected and untreated citizens. At least so far, we have defied the epidemic with dignity, and I want to thank once again our doctors, all health workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic. Thank you, dear healthcare workers, you are well worth applause.
Also, I consider it worth noting that from the very outset decent conditions were created for our isolated citizens. They are provided with hotel rooms, meal and the necessary medical supervision. Armenia’s experience in many countries of the world is given as an example of how to treat their citizens during a crisis.
During this period, thousands of Armenian citizens were repatriated from around the globe through state budget funding and with the support of local and Diaspora-based organizations.
I wish to thank all those organizations and individuals who helped the Commandant’s Office to import a number of necessary goods into Armenia.
An important feature of the epidemic in Armenia is that we never faced the phenomenon of empty showcases in our country, which unfortunately was the case in many countries. In this regard, I would like once again to thank our businessmen, as well as our partners from Georgia, Russia, Iran, who spared no effort to ensure uninterrupted cargo transportation.
I also thank all countries and international organizations, which have assisted Armenia in its fight against coronavirus.
The coronavirus epidemic gave rise to many social and economic problems, and the government took 13 measures to help the economy and citizens overcome the crisis. As part of the first anti-crisis action, the Government encouraged the provision of interest-free preferential loans to business entities. Co-financed by the Government, zero interest rate loans are disbursed to pay salaries and meet tax liabilities. Soft loans are provided for the purchase of raw materials and equipment, payment of utility bills and food imports. 229 business entities have so far benefited from the program; the amount of lending is AMD 10,900 million drams. The program is still on.
The second anti-crisis action targets agriculture. The government has nullified interest rates on loans provided under state programs, as well as on a number of agricultural loans to stimulate agricultural activity in general. 1307 entities have already availed themselves of the program; the loan amount is AMD 2,960 million drams, and we are taking measures to make the program more intensive.
Within the framework of the third anti-crisis measure, we will support law-abiding small and medium enterprises, which pay taxes in good faith, depending on their turnover, by providing collateral-free loans at the rate of 2 to 50 million drams for three years. At the same time, during the first six months they do not have to make any repayment; zero interest rate is charged for the first two years. The program continues to be implemented, and 230 economic entities have so far benefited from it, the loan amount is 2,470 million drams, and we are taking measures to make the program more intensive.
Under the fifth anti-crisis activity, we provide grants to companies with 2 to 50 employees that have retained their standing jobs and payroll during the crisis. The Government pays the salary of every fifth employee of these companies. 8340 business entities have already taken advantage of this program; the amount allocated is 1,300 million drams.
These are our economic programs adopted at this stage. Consultations are underway, and we will soon adopt other economic programs. Now, let me introduce our social assistance programs.
Within the framework of the fourth anti-crisis measure, we provide one-time support to the parents of children under 14 who lost their jobs from March 13 to March 25, and we provide 100 thousand drams for each child. So far, we have identified 964 such parents and paid out about AMD 100 million.
As part of the sixth anti-crisis program, we provide lump-sum assistance to those citizens who had a registered job and lost it during March 13-30, and their salary did not exceed AMD 500 thousand in January-February. Such citizens are supported at the rate of the minimum wage. We have already assisted some 6,723 citizens, with the total amount of support standing at 457 million drams.
As part of the seventh anti-crisis activity, we provide lump-sum assistance at the rate of 100 thousand drams to pregnant women who are unemployed and whose spouses were dismissed from work from March 13 to 30. 702 million drams have been made available to 7026 pregnant women.
As part of the eighth anti-crisis action, we provide one-time assistance to those engaged in the hardest-hit sectors and self-employed persons. The amount of support depends on the size of the registered salary or turnover. 63 thousand 014 people have already been supported under this program; the total amount of payments is 4,615 million drams.
As part of the ninth anti-crisis program, we provide one-time assistance to unemployed parents. We pay such parents 26 thousand 500 drams for each child. We have so far provided assistance for 19,457 such children to a total amount of 515 million drams. The program continues to be implemented.
As part of the tenth activity, we provide one-time assistance to micro businesses operating in crisis-affected sectors to the amount of ten percent of the turnover of the first quarter of 2020, but not more than twice the minimum wage and at least 10 thousand drams. About 6,000 such enterprises have been notified, and the proposed funds shall be made available in the coming week.
Under the eleventh anti-crisis effort, we provide lump-sum assistance to those subscribers to natural gas and electricity supply contracts whose consumer bills did not exceed 10,000 drams for natural gas consumption, 5,000 drams for electricity consumption in February, 2020. There are about 235 thousand such subscribers in the Republic of Armenia, and the Government reimburses 50% of their expenses. Those customers in this group who have already paid for utilities receive support as a prepayment to their subscriber accounts. The Government has already paid out AMD 786 million under this program.
Within the framework of the twelfth anti-crisis program, we provide one-time assistance to those subscribers to natural gas and electricity supply contracts whose consumer bills amounted to AMD 10 001 - 30 000 for natural gas, and AMD 5 001 - 10 000 for electricity in February, 2020. There are about 280 thousand such subscribers nationwide, and the Government will reimburse 30% of their bills for February. 1,842 million drams have already been paid out under this program.
As part of the thirteenth activity, we support family allowance beneficiaries at the rate of half their monthly benefit. At the same time, 70% of the support will be provided in the form of cash payments and 30% will go to refund electricity bills. About 85 thousand families will become beneficiaries of this program, the total amount of support will make about AMD 1.2 billion. The target households will get these funds together with the monthly allowance for April.
It is also important to state that ever since the coronavirus outbreak, Armenian banks and credit organizations have granted a credit holiday to some 11 thousand legal entities in the amount of AMD 35bln. 380 thousand individuals have been granted credit holidays, the total amount of these loans makes about AMD 15bln.
The Government continues to discuss anti-crisis measures and steps, and the necessary decisions will be made to withstand this impending crisis. Our main task is to ensure that the aforementioned 13 anti-crisis activities prove as effective as possible and reach the beneficiaries as soon as possible.
I should admit that we receive a lot of signals which state that people are de facto beneficiaries of this or that event, but their online applications have been declined. We will probe into all these cases again, but it is obvious that in many cases our citizens are refused assistance due to their employers’ irresponsibility and even illegal activities. Once again, we will review all such cases and draw appropriate conclusions.
With regard to our strategy for overcoming the coronavirus crisis, we must state that until a vaccine is found, the coronavirus will not disappear and we will have infected citizens. In accordance with this, our strategic objective is to curb the number of infected people as much as possible in order to make it affordable for the healthcare system. On the other hand, we cannot remain in self-isolation indefinitely; we cannot live in quarantine or in a state of emergency infinitely.
Therefore, we should strategically try to co-exist with the coronavirus; we must use this interim period of emergency to acquire the skills necessary for this. What does this mean in practice?
We are gradually resuming economic activity in various spheres. But we expect special responsibility from employers, who must provide for special safety standards in factories, workshops, construction sites, otherwise we will have to not weaken, but toughen restrictions.
All companies should have plans for protection against COVID-19 for their stores, cafes and restaurants, which will resume operations in the future, and I urge you to use the quarantine period to solve this problem.
The epidemic implies special responsibility for everyone. Each of us should do our best in order, firstly, not to become infected ourselves, and secondly, not to infect others.
I want to offer such a formula, the use of which will give guarantees to us and our relatives. We need to comply with three simplest rules in order to avoid infection: firstly, when communicating with each other, observe a social distance of at least 2 meters; secondly, to touch the face with your hands only after disinfection, that is, washing your hands with soap or treating with an alcohol-based disinfectant. The next condition is to use only clean dishes and disinfected tools in hairdressing salons.
Under these conditions, we will almost be guaranteed against coronavirus infection. Here, in fact, are three simple rules that will solve the problem, but we need special and collective efforts to abide by these rules. I mean our efforts and the efforts of our families, as well as enterprises in the field of catering and beauty salons.
The coronavirus epidemic dictates to all of us new rules of behavior and even new reflexes. In the end, many of the rules of our behavior, many reflexes formed over time, under the influence of various factors, and, perhaps, we are now experiencing such times when the situation will inevitably change our habits, forms of communication, everyday movements.
The Government's anti-epidemic measures have produced preliminary results. However, this should not weaken our vigilance, especially in the coming period of emergency, we must be twice as much vigilant.
If we do so, we will gradually return to normal life from 14 May. If we do not act there, if we do not accept the new rules of coexistence, the infection could spread with renewed vigor and lead us all to a humanitarian disaster. The well-known slogan remains the same: “The future of Armenia depends on one person and you are the one!”
I love you all; I am proud of you all and bow to all of you. Please know that all your pains and sorrows are engraved in my heart, all your needs are in my thoughts, all your dreams are in my soul. Together, we will overcome this crisis and come out of it stronger and more confident.
Long live freedom!
Long live the Republic of Armenia
Long live the Republic of Artsakh,
Long live we and our children, for they live and will live in a free and happy Armenia.
Dear people, ahead with high spirits!”