Fri, 02 Oct 2020

YEREVAN -- The Armenian government has proposed the extension of the state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic by another month, citing the need to maintain the current positive trend in its fight against the outbreak.

At a special government meeting on August 12, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that he hoped that the fifth extension of the state of emergency will be the last, urging citizens to continue to follow anti-pandemic measures set by the authorities.

At the same time, the Armenian authorities have removed certain prohibitions and restrictions introduced in March, including a ban on political assembly.

The monthly extensions of the state of emergency have increasingly been criticized by Armenian opposition groups in recent months. Some of them claimed that Pashinian was exploiting the coronavirus crisis to ward off anti-government street protests.

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Pashinian stressed that all bans and restrictions, including on political assembly, were based on the epidemiological situation and that their removal is also conditional on that.

"If, God forbid, as a result of removing these restrictions we will see numbers climbing again, we will be forced to reintroduce them," the prime minister warned.

"Going through hell today and having had 806 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus and 234 deaths among coronavirus patients due to their other preexisting conditions, we have a chance to get to a totally new situation in the fall, in fact overcoming [the pandemic] regardless of what will be happening in the [rest of the] world," Pashinian said.

Pashinian reiterated that wearing face masks in all public spaces, which has been mandatory in Armenia since June, will continue to be the cornerstone of his government's strategy.

"If we show exceptional discipline in wearing face masks, we can consider that we -- I mean all of us, all our citizens -- have practically solved the coronavirus problem. If not, we will get back to the July situation," Pashinian said, referring to the apparent peak of the pandemic in the first part of last month when more than 700 new coronavirus cases and about 15 deaths were reported in Armenia on a daily basis.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, over 40,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the South Caucasus country, which has a population of about 3 million. According to Armenia's Ministry of Health, more than 33,000 people with the coronavirus have recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian announced that Armenia will allow foreigners to come into the country by air but will require that they either self-isolate for 14 days or produce a negative coronavirus test before being allowed to move freely.

The decision to extend the state of emergency until September 11 is scheduled to be discussed later on August 12 in parliament, where Pashinian's My Step alliance has a commanding majority.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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