Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told the Armenian police on Tuesday to step up the enforcement of social distancing and other rules meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
Pashinian said this must be the primary task of the newly appointed chief of the national police service, Vahe Ghazarian.
“The quality of the work of the police will continue to be essential in the fight against the epidemic,” he said, introducing Ghazarian to senior police officials. “As much as we realize that the entire police staff is on the verge of exhaustion, new impetus should be given [to police efforts] no matter how impossible that may seem.”
Ghazarian was appointed as police chief on Monday immediately after the sacking of his predecessor, Arman Sargsian. The latter ran the police for only 9 months.
Pashinian gave no clear reasons for Sargsian’s sacking at the meeting with the senior police officials. But his remarks suggest that he was dissatisfied with ongoing efforts to make Armenians practice social distancing, wear face masks in all public areas and take other precautions against the virus.
Pashinian ordered the law-enforcement and sanitary authorities to toughen the enforcement of those rules on June 2 as the COVID-19 epidemic in Armenia reached alarming proportions. He stated the following day that citizens’ failure to comply with them has become so widespread that there is little the police can do about it.
The police claim to have fined since then many more people who did not wear face masks in cars or buses.
Like Pashinian, Ghazarian was born and raised in Ijevan, a small town and the administrative center of Armenia’s northern Tavush province. The two men reportedly studied in the same local school. Pashinian is 45 years old while Ghazarian will turn 46 next week.
Ghazarian has rapidly worked his way up the police hierarchy since the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018 that brought Pashinian to power. He was appointed as chief of the police department of Tavush in May 2018 and became the commander of Armenian interior troops a year later.
Pashinian assured the senior policemen on Tuesday that the police service is now fully merit-based and that political or personal connections will play no role in their promotion.