Speech by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at National Assembly special session, convened to discuss extension of state of emergency
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Honorable National Assembly Speaker,
Dear Deputy Speakers,
Dear National Assembly Members,
The government has decided to extend the state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus epidemic for another month. The purpose of this decision is that the causes of the state of emergency announced in March have not yet been eliminated and, unfortunately, the epidemic continues to spread in the Republic of Armenia.
To date, we have a total of 15281 confirmed cases, 5639 citizens have recovered. 258 people have died from the disease, 86 of them died from other causes, but they were infected with the coronavirus. At present, the number of patients in critical condition is 100. Medical facilities are overcrowded. Of the 1857 regular beds, 1551 were occupied last night. Yesterday, 204 of the 239 ICU beds were overcrowded.
The main question, of course, is: what is the concept of ending the crisis and reducing the number of citizens infected with the coronavirus? To tell the truth, this perception that we have presented has not changed since the beginning. Overcoming the coronavirus, moreover, is an important observation that few people notice, it is not so much a health problem as a social, behavioural and disciplinary problem.
My belief is that the solution is in our minds and in our heads. And, in fact, this situation can only be overcome by changes in societal behavior. At the same time, it is important to justify these behavioral changes, because according to various forecasts, the coronavirus epidemic will exist not only in Armenia, but in the world for at least a year and a half. It is even estimated that the world will remain in this situation for the next five years. Of course, it is natural that a lot of work is done to acquire, discover and create a vaccine during this period, and in theory, this vaccine can be created in three months, a month, but it may not be created in the next three years.
Therefore, here too, we must be guided by the scenario “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” In fact, I would like to say that our daily figures show how we have complied with the anti-epidemic rules over the last 7 to 14 days. Why 7 to 14 days, because that is exactly the incubation period of the disease? In other words, the infection manifests itself in 7 to 14 days.
If our numbers are so high, it means that we have not all followed the anti-epidemic rules at the right level, we have introduced the compulsory condition to wear masks on June 3, today on June 12 and if the rules were followed properly, we would most likely decrease the number today. If we do not have a decrease in the number, it means that the citizens of the Republic of Armenia, we do not follow all anti-epidemic rules at the appropriate level.
I would like to say that no matter how hard the government tries, if these rules are not broadly adhered to, it will be impossible to defeat the epidemic. I want to reiterate that our long term strategy and our strategy should be to live with the coronavirus because, as I have already pointed out, no one knows how much it will be with us.
At the same time, when this idea seems very strange to many, I would like to emphasize that throughout its history, mankind has repeatedly been confronted with the rules of behavior change for artificial reasons. For example, let's talk about an artificial case, when cars appeared on planet Earth, at one point, people started to bump into it, which made great human victims. As a result, crosswalks and traffic lights were created and the rules of the road were regulated.
It is true that today we continue to ignore the red light. Some of them have a similar fate to that of coronaviruses. We have asymptomatic cases, meaning that when we go through a red light and nothing happens to us, we can consider it an asymptomatic case, and when we are in a car accident, it can be considered a serious form of Covid-19. Therefore, my and our perception is that we must live, learn to live with the coronavirus, because even if we do not change our behavior in all cases, we will have great difficulties.
In our country, for example, we know that there has been a restriction regime for a long time, but it also has not produced the result that could be recorded in a number of countries, for example, our figures have not not approached zero. Why? because even general restrictions imply certain rules of behavior, and if these rules are observed in streets, squares, shopping malls, most central markets, these rules are not observed in courtyards, chat rooms, buildings , the starters and we have the same situation again.
But changing the rules of behavior is crucial even if we reduce the numbers to 0 at some point. If the numbers reach 0, it doesn't mean that the coronavirus has disappeared, it means that by keeping certain rules, for example by wearing a mask, we were able to set the numbers to zero, but if we don't follow the rules after this reduction, the numbers will increase again very quickly
But I want to say that the ineffectiveness of the lockdown has already been proven once and for all, and our message remains the same. We have to overcome this situation by changing our individual behavior. But I want to point out that there may be a situation where we simply have no choice but to return to the lockdown state.
At the same time, we have calculations, if we can keep the situation stable, that is to say that we will have 550 to 600 new cases per day, this burden will be heavy, but it will be tolerable for our health care system, that is to say that we will be able to serve all our patients. But if our situation is much worse than that, we may simply have to go into a total lockdown state, which will be a serious blow to the backbone of our economy.
But for me this is of great ideological importance and, like the solution of all other problems, we see the solution of this problem in close cooperation between the government and the people. In other words, there should be a dialogue between the government and the people, and we should all assess the seriousness of the situation and declare that the future development of this situation depends on the individual behaviour of each of us.
And I think that an anti-epidemic movement should start in Armenia. And if, formally, we have to set a zero point again, I think our meeting today could be that symbolic zero point to which each of us is to be committed. The proof is that I personally was infected with the coronavirus, I overcame it, I followed all the rules established with unconditional precision, without exception, and I call all the citizens of the Republic of Armenia to follow this example.
We expect hundreds of thousands of Armenian citizens to be guided by this same rule on a daily basis, so that they create an environment where failure to comply with these rules is nothing but a disgrace, a reason for isolation. And therefore, dear compatriots, I urge you to assess the seriousness of the moment and understand that we are talking about a week, not even a year.
Therefore, we have to adapt to the new realities, to the new world, and in this new world, as a society, as a state, as a people, we have to prove our viability. And I am convinced that together we will be able to overcome this crisis and ensure the viability of our people, our homeland and our country.