Armenia has banned all public events involving more than two dozen people after the number of coronavirus cases nearly doubled in a day, pushing authorities to declare a state of emergency on Monday.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, who was appointed chief coordinator of the 30-day state of emergency, said the decision concerns all concerts, exhibitions, displays, theatrical performances and other sports, cultural, educational and entertainment events.
Under the decision, no more than 20 people are allowed to take part in celebrations and commemoration events, including but not limited to birthday, wedding and engagement parties, memorial services and funerals.
“In the case with funerals and memorial services we will try to provide a slightly wider opportunity for participation while keeping an eye out for crowding during ceremonies,” Avinian said.
Under the state of emergency, Armenia has also prohibited entry for foreigners coming from countries most affected by the new coronavirus.
The measures come after Armenia’s Health Ministry reported an additional 22 cases late on Monday, with the total number of coronavirus patients in the country as of midnight reaching 52. Officials say the first patient identified in Armenia on March 1 has recovered.
In a live broadcast Minister Arsen Torosian said that a vast majority of patients identified in Armenia do not even have symptoms. He said some of them had been identified only due to having been in close contact with the already confirmed patients. “Only two of the patients have developed pneumonia, but they have it in a mild form,” the minister said.
At the same time, Torosian said that efforts were underway to establish the source of infection in several new cases. “We are also identifying the scope of their [new patients’] contacts in order to apply measures,” he added.
After the announcement of the state of emergency in Armenia, the Armenian Apostolic Church disseminated an appeal from His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, on COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The spiritual leader announced that Armenian churches in Armenia and throughout the world will conduct all liturgies behind closed doors, but will schedule regular open ours for believes to make individual visits. Among other limitations the church also announced the suspension of marriage ceremonies and limited its services during funerals to graveyard ceremonies.
Late on Monday, speaking in parliament while presenting his government’s decision on introducing the state of emergency, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian also called on people to take basic protective measures to reduce the risk of contracting the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. He said that social distancing is one of the means to minimize the risk.
As Pashinian was addressing lawmakers, some social media users were posting photographs alleging instances of panic buying in supermarkets in Yerevan and provinces. The prime minister assured the public that Armenia has no shortage of food supply and urged people not to buy more than they need.
“Strategically, of course, the fact that a state of emergency has been imposed in the country means that we are having a crisis. But I want to say that our strategic approach is as follows: we should come out of this crisis being stronger in terms of both our economy and public health,” Prime Minister Pashinian stressed.