The bill passed in the first reading by 80 votes to 28 involves amendments to several Armenian laws. They empower relevant authorities to impose nationwide or local lockdowns, seal off communities hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, close Armenia’s borders and isolate people infected with the disease. The authorities can also ban or restrict public gatherings in the country.
The government drafted the bill to avoid extending the state of emergency again on September 11.
Deputies representing the two parliamentary opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Bright Armenia (LHK), voted against the measure, saying that the government is hastily pushing it through parliament without a proper debate. The BHK’s Naira Zohrabian also claimed that it violates some articles of the Armenian constitution.
Both the BHK and the LHK had for months criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government for repeatedly prolonging emergency rule. Some of their senior members had said that the government is not lifting it in order to keep in place a coronavirus-related ban on street protests.
The government lifted the ban last month. It at the same time set strict physical distancing requirements for organizers and participants of rallies.
The government used the state of emergency to impose a nationwide lockdown in late March. It began easing lockdown restrictions already in mid-April.
With the number of coronavirus cases in the country growing rapidly in the following weeks, the authorities put the emphasis on the enforcement of safety rules requiring Armenians to practice social distancing and wear face masks in all public areas.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases has shrunk by more than half since mid-July. Citing this downward trend, the government decided late last month to reopen universities and schools on September 1 and September 15 respectively.
The Armenian Ministry of Health said on Friday morning that 190 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing to 44,461 the total number of cases recorded in the country of about 3 million.
The ministry also reported the deaths of five more people infected with COVID-19. The official total number of people killed by the disease thus reached 891. According to ministry data, 272 other infected persons have died from other, pre-existing conditions.