Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hit back on Wednesday at opposition groups denouncing his handling of the coronavirus crisis in Armenia, saying that they are digging their own political graves.
His government has come under strong opposition criticism in recent weeks amid the soaring number of coronavirus cases and deaths caused by them. One of the opposition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), has said that Pashinian must be held accountable for the government’s failure to contain the deadly epidemic.
Pashinian responded by accusing Dashnaktsutyun and other critics of spreading a “political coronavirus” in Armenia. “In my view, unlike the healthcare coronavirus, it will lead to the political death of all political and social forces that have characteristics of this bacillus,” he told a news briefing.
“You will see that those political forces will be completely driven out of Armenia’s political and public life because with their current actions they are building their political tombstones,” he declared.
Comparing the coronavirus crisis to a war, Pashinian said that the opposition criticism amounts to high treason.
“In times of war, what do they do to those who spread panic and false information and speak out against the commander?” he said. “They put them on trial in accordance with the logic of a warlike situation. We are obviously not pursuing such a policy because we are a democratic country.”
It is the public that will throw his detractors into the “trash heap of Armenia’s history,” added Pashinian.
A Dashnaktsutyun leader, Ishkhan Saghatelian, was quick to round on Pashinian. “We will continue to fight against those who spread both the political and real coronavirus,” Saghatelian wrote on Facebook. “As regards ending up in a political trash heap, it’s the authorities that have every reason to be deeply worried about that.”
Opposition figures and other critics say the authorities are to blame for the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country because they never properly enforced a lockdown imposed in late March and lifted it too soon. They cite the example of many other countries, notably neighboring Georgia, that are now reporting very low infection rates.
The Georgian authorities have so far reported 822 coronavirus cases and only 13 deaths caused by them, compared with 14,103 cases and at least 227 fatalities registered in Armenia. On Tuesday alone, the Armenian Ministry of Health recorded 428 single-day COVID-19 infections. By contrast, only 4 people reportedly tested positive for the virus in Georgia.
Pashinian said on Wednesday that the governments of all affected countries have made “mistakes” in the fight against the pandemic. He insisted that the COVID-19 mortality rate has been much lower in Armenia than in “the most developed countries of the world.”
The premier also said that his government’s handling of the crisis can be objectively evaluated only after the end of the pandemic.