Armenian parliamentarians on Friday voted unanimously in favor of amendments envisaging administrative and criminal liability for violating the requirements of isolation and self-isolation during epidemic-conditioned national emergencies as well as for spreading “panic-mongering” information.
The debate proceeding into late hours and the subsequent vote took place amid a 30-day state of emergency declared in Armenia on March 16 to grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus that has already affected 136 people in the South Caucasus country.
Hundreds of people remain in quarantines in Armenia at present, with the country’s health authorities not excluding that such measures as isolation and self-isolation will need to be applied to a larger number of people in the near future.
According to the government, most of Armenia’s current cases of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are related to just two sources of infection. In both cases, officials say, people who had arrived from coronavirus-hit Italy disregarded health warnings and recommendations from authorities, which resulted in mass infection.
The relevant draft amendments to the country’s code of administrative violations and criminal code have been presented by the Ministry of Justice. They, in particular, suggested that fines of up to 500,000 drams (about $1,000) be imposed on those who break the requirements of isolation or self-isolation and that violations resulting in mass infection be punishable by up to five years in prison.
Under the package, dissemination of information that may provoke panic during state-of-emergency periods is to be subject to a fine of up to 300,000 drams (about $600).
Several opposition lawmakers raised questions about certain aspects of the proposed amendments, claiming that they were too vague for proper application and needed to be specified.
The parliament dominated by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance voted 102 to 0, with no abstentions, to pass the amendments in the first reading, leaving the possibility for the bills to be elaborated based on lawmakers’ proposals before the second-reading debate and vote scheduled for Monday.