The Armenia government said on Friday it will likely extend a state of emergency by yet another month due to the continuing coronavirus crisis in the country.
“In all likelihood, the decision to extend the state of emergency by another month will be made public on Monday,” Mane Gevorgian, the spokeswoman for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The government declared a one-month state of emergency on March 16 following the first outbreaks of the coronavirus registered in Armenia. It imposed a nationwide lockdown later in March.
The government began easing lockdown restrictions in mid-April. But it has extended emergency rule on a monthly basis since then, citing the rapidly growing number of new coronavirus cases.
Pashinian said earlier this week that the government has no choice but to resort to another extension due to the continuing spread of the deadly disease. He said it needs special powers to continue to make people wear mandatory face masks in public areas and to enforce other anti-epidemic rules.
Armenia has one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the world, with a total of 30,903 cases confirmed in the country of about 3 million so far. According to the Armenian Ministry of Health, 557 people tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
The ministry also reported on Friday morning the deaths of 18 more people infected with COVID-19. It said COVID-19 was the primary cause of 11 of those deaths.
The official death toll thus rose to 546. The figure does not include 177 other infected people who the ministry says have died from other, pre-existing conditions.
Under Armenian law, the National Assembly has to meet for an emergency session immediately after the declaration or extension of emergency rule.
Ani Samsonian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), said she and her colleagues will attend the upcoming session to question the government’s “very ineffective” strategy of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The number of new infections is not falling while the [number of] deaths is already very troubling,” Samsonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Arusyak Julhakian, a lawmaker representing Pashinian’s My Step bloc, dismissed the criticism. She argued, in particular, that Armenia’s coronavirus mortality rate is low by Western standards.
“If we speak of ineptness, then I think Ms. Samsonian should blame the entire world and say that the entire world has been inept and failed so far to defeat the pandemic,” said Julhakian.
Samsonian further suggested that the authorities will again extend the state of emergency also because they want to keep up the existing ban on street demonstrations. They are afraid of anti-government protests, she claimed.
“It’s not that thousands of people would take to the streets if there was no state of emergency,” countered Julhakian. “Our only fear is that if people gather in large numbers they will get infected.”