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COVID-19 Outbreak In Armenian Parliament


Armenia -- Deputies from the ruling My Step bloc at a parliament session in Yerevan, June 22, 2020.

At least a dozen deputies of Armenia’s 132-member parliament have reportedly been infected with the coronavirus amid the continuing spread of the disease in the country.

Vahe Enfiajian, a deputy parliament speaker, was the first to announce his positive test result on June 23. Several other deputies admitted testing positive in the following days.

Enfiajian said he has a fever but not pneumonia when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service from his home on Saturday. He insisted that he does not know who might have infected him.

“I always wore a mask in my office,” said the senior lawmaker affiliated with the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).

Enfiajian said that several other BHK deputies have also tested positive for the virus and had to self-isolate. One of them, Arman Abovian, confirmed his infection on Saturday.

Abovian, who is a senior BHK member, said he does not know whether the party’s top leader, Gagik Tsarukian, has also been affected by the outbreak.

For the last two weeks BHK’s 25-strong parliamentary group has boycotted sessions of the National Assembly in protest against its pro-government majority’s June 16 decision to lift Tsarukian’s immunity from prosecution. The BHK leader is facing accusations of vote buying which he rejects as politically motivated.

The parliamentary majority representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc has also been hit by COVID-19 infections. One of its deputies, Hayk Gevorgian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that he had a coronavirus test on June 24 hours after showing some symptoms of the disease during a parliament session. He said he believe that he was infected inside the parliament building.

According to Gevorgian, there were 7 confirmed coronavirus cases among My Step deputies as of Saturday.

Another pro-government lawmaker, Karen Hambardzumian, admitted testing positive on Monday. “I am being examined in hospital,” he told the Armenpress news agency.

The Bright Armenia Party, the third political group represented in the parliament, said at the weekend that there have been no infections among its deputies so far.

Despite the outbreak, the parliament’s leadership reportedly decided on Monday to hold an emergency session of the parliament on Tuesday. It was not clear how it will try to prevent a further spread of the virus among deputies and parliament staffers.

The deputies have had to wear masks on the parliament floor and in their offices for the past month. The parliament statutes do not allow them to attend sessions and vote via a video link.

The Armenian health authorities have reported 25,127 coronavirus cases and at least 433 deaths caused by them so far.

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