The government announced on Friday that it will lift remaining restrictions on people’s movements and allow the vast majority of businesses, including many cafes and restaurants, to resume their work on Monday despite the continuing spread of coronavirus in Armenia.
Government officials stressed at the same time that employers will have to abide by social distancing and hygiene rules set by the Armenian Ministry of Health.
According to Deputy Economy Minister Varos Simonian, the government’s decision covers all types of manufacturing, services such as hairdressing and cleaning as well as retail and wholesale trade carried out outside shopping malls. Those cafes and restaurants that have outdoor areas will also be allowed to reopen.
Simonian also said that starting from May 4 Armenians will no longer have to carry passports and fill out special forms specifying their reasons to leave their homes.
He confirmed that the government will keep in place for now its ban on municipal public transport in Yerevan and other cities and towns. “Public transport is a very risky type of economic activity which allows the virus to spread very quickly,” explained the official.
Other government officials made clear earlier this week that all Armenian universities and schools will remain closed until the end of the current academic year. Virtually all of them switched to online courses after the nationwide lockdown imposed in late March.
“This can be regarded as a sort of test,” Simonian said of the government’s decision to largely end the lockdown. “While we are easing the restrictions everyone, both citizens and businesses, must display a strong discipline and consciousness.”
“Depending on that, we will decide whether to maintain the mild restrictions regime or to revert to tougher restrictions,” he told a joint news conference with Deputy Health Minister Lena Nanushian.
Nanushian said, for her part, that the Ministry of Health has set specific coronavirus-related safety rules for companies and other entities resuming their work. “The requirements are pretty much the same [for everyone]: to ensure a physical distance of one or two meters between employees and customers and to take various hygiene measures, including disinfection and ventilation [of premises,]” she said.
The lockdown significantly slowed the spread of the virus in Armenia already at the beginning of April. The government began gradually reopening the Armenian economy on April 13. The Ministry of Health has registered increased daily numbers of COVID-19 cases since April 21.
The number of new confirmed cases hit a record high of 134 on Thursday. Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian said during a cabinet meeting that the authorities will reverse the reopening process if it leads to “dangerous consequences” in the coming days or weeks.
The authorities reported on Friday morning that 82 more people tested positive for the virus in the past day, bringing the total number of infections to 2,148. They also reported another fatality which raised the country’s death toll from COVID-19 to 33.
The spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, Alina Nikoghosian, said the latest victim was aged 27 and suffered from other “lifelong chronic diseases.”