The government has decided to extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency but at the same reopen some sectors of Armenia’s economy.
The government ordered the temporary closure of most nonessential businesses, including cafes and restaurants, on March 24 amid an accelerating spread of coronavirus in the country. The order did not apply to agriculture, food retailers, public utilities and services, banks as well as food-processing, mining and cargo firms.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, who heads a government task force enforcing the state of emergency, said on Sunday that companies that are engaged in open-air construction or manufacture cigarettes, cement and other construction materials will be able to resume their work on Monday. He said the temporary ban on engineering and scientific research will also be lifted.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced the impending easing of the economic shutdown on Saturday.
“We can’t shut [the economy] down completely,” he said. “That is why we have decided that amid the extension of the state of emergency some types of economic activity will be fully permitted starting from Monday.”
In a video address livestreamed on Facebook, Pashinian also said that the government may allow “after April 20” the reopening of textile factories employing thousands of people.
“For us the riskiest sector here is textile manufacturing because, as you know, it has been the main driving force of about 1,000 coronavirus cases that we have now,” he said. “But we also realize that people need to work, and we will hold more detailed discussions with textile industry entrepreneurs … so that they can organize manufacturing as safely as possible.”
The government made the decision after the rate of new coronavirus infections recorded by the Armenian health authorities dropped significantly in the course of the past week.
The authorities said on Sunday morning that the total number of coronavirus cases rose by 46 to 1,013 in the past 24 hours. It was higher than the daily numbers reported in previous days.
According to Health Minister Arsen Torosian, they carried out a record-high 680 coronavirus tests on Friday. The daily number of such tests cited by Torosian’s ministry varied between 200 and 300 until then.
Pashinian warned that the government will restore the initial restrictions on economic activity in case of a renewed upsurge in the disease. “The fact that we have a relatively small number of infections and are reopening more areas of economic activity doesn’t mean that our epidemiological situation has improved,” he said. “No, our epidemiological situation has stabilized but not improved.”
Pashinian also made clear that the government will maintain serious restrictions on other people’s movements and will not lift its ban on public transport imposed in late March.
The state of emergency is due to expire on April 14. The government wants to extend it by one month and will convene an extraordinary session of the Armenian parliament for that purpose by Tuesday.