Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other senior government officials on Tuesday called on citizens not to buy more food and essentials than they need, assuring the public that Armenia has no shortage of supplies.
In a live broadcast on Facebook on the first full day of a 30-day state of emergency declared last night to slow and contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Pashinian ascribed rising food prices to panic buying.
Reports of major instances of panic buying in supermarkets across Armenia first appeared in media on Monday within hours after the Pashinian government announced a set of limitations, including a ban on public gatherings and the possibility of restricting people’s travel due to epidemiological conditions.
Pashinian today cited official statistics showing that in recent days trade at large supermarkets increased by an average of 30-40 percent, while small shops reported falling sales. The prime minister urged citizens “not to forget about small and medium-sized businesses.”
“I understand that shopping in supermarkets is much more convenient, but even today there are a lot of goods in large amounts in small and medium-sized shops, and it is surprising that they have problems with sales,” he said.
Gegham Gevorgian, chairman of the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition, also confirmed that Armenia is provided with the necessary amount of food. He said that mainly groceries have been in great demand in recent days.
As for the level of prices, the head of the anti-trust body said: “I think that apart from the monitoring of prices it is also important to ensure uninterrupted supply of stocks to exclude shortages. I assure you that at this moment we have no such problem.”
Prime Minister Pashinian also assured the public about a stable situation in the financial market. “[The financial market is strong] especially after our results last year when our international reserves reached a record level, and the Central Bank purchased and stocked an unprecedentedly large amount of foreign currency. So, we will have no problems,” the head of the Armenian government said.
Pashinian added that his government is against the logic of “economic benefits.” “The economy needs no benefits, which will only weaken it, it needs a program of development underpinning each penny spent on it. We need to make sure that as a result of this assistance, companies and businesses will become more competitive and stronger,” the prime minister said.
Pashinian once again stressed that the situation is fully under his government’s control. “I am convinced that we will come out of this situation as winners, that we will become much more proud and stronger, much more viable, competitive and competent,” he said.
Later on Monday Prime Minister Pashinian visited several supermarkets and stores in Yerevan to monitor the situation connected with supplies and prices. During a live broadcast on Facebook he registered that shelves at all places were full of the usual assortment and found no change in prices.
Pashinian also walked into three pharmacies in the city center only to find that all of them had no alcohol-based hand sanitizers in stock. Only one of the three pharmacies had medical masks on sale.
Armenia confirmed 72 coronavirus cases as March 17 evening. Officials say Armenia’s first COVID-19 patient identified on March 1 has recovered.