An overview of how Armenia is responding to the coronavirus emergency: from the experience of those in quarantine to the measures taken by the government
Armenia-Italy-Portugal-Greece-Armenia. This was Arpi Bekaryan’s itinerary for a trip with friends a few weeks ago. Coming back to Yerevan around two weeks later, Arpi did not even get the chance to go home – at the request of the Armenian government, she was immediately transferred to a building in the resort town of Tsakhkadzor, which has been repurposed for quarantine.
“Early in the morning we landed at Zvartnots International Airport from Athens. Outside of the airplane window it looked like a sci-fi movie: two ambulances and several doctors in masks standing in front of the plane. We didn't even get inside the airport. Before opening the airplane doors, our names were called out and we were asked to disembark while all the other passengers waited until we had gone. Before coming back, we had already decided to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Armenia and not even see our families”, Arpi says.
The government, however, took charge of the quarantine process – something which Arpi learned only at the airport. There she was greeted by the staff of Armenia’s Health and Labour Inspectorate, who checked her temperature, filled out a personal information form and, wishing her good health, saw her off to Tsakhkadzor.
“We were quickly accommodated in two ambulances: once again they filled out our personal data and took us to the quarantine area. They take care of us so well here that we even feel bad for that. They knock on the door every 15-20 minutes to ask what we need, what they can bring for us. We have everything here: coffee, tea, fruit, hairdryer, and slippers.
Arpi notes that at first the food issue was a little complicated as she is a vegetarian. Several times she had to send back food with meat, but then the issue was resolved.
The Armenian government has taken care of the quarantine of hundreds of citizens like Arpi. One of them is Biayna Mahari, whose Italian holiday also ended with quarantine. She returned to Armenia on a special flight from Italy organised by the government on March 16th. The government also arranged for Armenian citizens in different parts of Italy to be transported to Rome on special buses, so that they would not face any potential health hazards on the way.
“It is very important to say a big thank you to the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Armenia in Italy. It is incredible to feel that your country is standing with you and when they constantly call you to understand how they can help, when they respond to emails within one hour and, most touching – send care packages in lovely bags with masks, gloves, and food. At the empty airport in Rome all the flights were cancelled and only in front of Yerevan's the number of the gate was proudly written. There is nobody in the whole airport, and still you are greeted at the entrance and everything is explained to you… and so many other little things that you can imagine someone sitting in their workplace and setting these nice little details everywhere along the way for you to feel better”, Biayna wrote on her Facebook page upon her return to Armenia.
All the passengers were quarantined. Armenia also repatriated citizens from a number of other countries by special flights and routes.
All those in isolation live in comfortable conditions, receive good quality food, and all their needs are met. After 14 days in quarantine they undergo coronavirus testing: if the results are negative, they are sent home, and if the result is positive, they are transferred to hospitals that have been rapidly restructured and are ready to treat patients.
There are currently 532 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Armenia, including 30 recoveries and 3 deaths.
A state of emergency was declared on March 16th and will last one month.
An office led by Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan has been set up to coordinate the management of the forces and resources enforcing the state of emergency.
It is currently forbidden to organise, hold, and participate in gatherings, strikes, and public events including concerts, exhibitions, and theatrical performances with the participation of 20 or more people; sports, cultural, or educational events which include but are not limited to celebrations and commemorations, birthdays, weddings, engagements, funerals, and other events as instructed by the Deputy Prime Minister.
From 10 to 12, only the elderly can visit grocery stores. Education is conducted via distance learning, including online classes. Most state employees are also teleworking. Interregional transport is off, and urban transportation vehicles are disinfected every day. Thousands of enterprises are closed, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks. The government has assured that there is no food deficit.
Steps are also being taken to provide state aid to enterprises. On March 26th, the government allocated 150 billion drams (around 275 million Euros) in measures to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus.
Salaries, pensions, and benefits will be paid on time. Thousands of families receive free food through various social assistance programmes by both the state and the private sector. Most operating banks and credit organisations have announced a credit freeze.
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