Police in Armenia stopped cars and pedestrians and warned other citizens to stay at home on Wednesday as they began enforcing a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.
Unprecedented restrictions on people’s movement imposed by the Armenian government late on Tuesday mean that people are only allowed out to buy food, receive medical care or briefly exercise near their places of residence. The curfew does not apply to a limited number of public and private sector employees allowed to continue to go to work.
As is the case in France and other European countries, all citizens must not only carry valid IDs but also fill out a form specifying their reasons to leave their homes. The form must contain the carrier’s name and birthdate. It can be downloaded from a government website or drawn by hand.
As police began patrolling the largely deserted streets of Yerevan it emerged that many passersby did not fill out such forms. Some of them instead showed police officers their bags filled with groceries bought in supermarkets.
One elderly woman claimed to be unaware of the requirement. “Who is supposed to issue such papers?” she said.
“I don’t know who and what should be written there,” said another pensioner.
There seemed to be greater compliance with the rule in the center of Yerevan. “I’m taking my grandchild home,” one woman there said after showing policemen a form which she said was filled out by her daughter.
A deputy chief of the Armenian police, Hayk Mherian, said in the morning that officers will avoid fining or briefly detaining people in the first hours of the lockdown. “But we will be fully enforcing the law after 4 p.m.,” he told reporters.
Under a government bill passed by the Armenian parliament on Monday, citizens defying quarantine or self-isolation orders issued by health authorities will face not only heavy fines but also up to five years in prison. There were more than 3,000 quarantined people in Armenia as of Tuesday evening, according to the authorities.
Another lockdown rule bans private cars from carrying more than one passenger at a time apart from the driver. Mherian said police ordered 92 people out of cars for this reason at the start of the emergency street patrols across the country.