Policy responses for Armenia - HSRM


Policy responses for Armenia

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

On 5 August, it was announced that the extension to the State of Emergency until 11 September will be the last – provided the epidemiological situation remained broadly positive. The latest extension also revised some of the previous provisions. The ban on entry of foreign citizens has been lifted, as has the ban on gatherings and strikes provided people follow the safety rules (wearing a mask, keeping the 1.5m social distance). Family celebrations and public events are also allowed both indoors and outdoors, but only for 40 people and with strict adherence to safety rules.

From 15 May regular flights from Moscow to Yerevan have resumed, allowing Armenian citizens to return. They will have to undertake mandatory self-isolation. From 28 July, the following people can be exempted from self-isolation:
1. those who arrive as part of foreign delegations, official and/or working visits;
2. representatives of diplomatic missions, consular posts, their family members, as well as representatives of international organizations, their family members;
3. persons invited on the basis of urgent needs for health, military and security, economic production;
4. those who arrive to perform work or provide services within the framework of state infrastructure projects;
5. those who arrive on the basis of a permit on other exclusive grounds granted by the Commandant.

Instead, these people should undergo a paid PCR test within 24 hours of arrival. As an exception the test result will be entered into the ARMED system with a special note. When the negative test result is entered into the ARMED system, the person can be immediately released from self-isolation.

From 12 August, the ban on entry of foreign citizens by air has been lifted, although land borders remain closed. If a traveller has no symptoms at the time of crossing the border, they can choose either to self-isolate for 14 days or take a PCR test and, if negative, leave isolation. Test certificates from other countries are not valid in Armenia. Land borders remain closed. All restrictions on the export of goods have been lifted.

From 11 September, visas for visiting Armenia can no longer be processed in the airport and must be obtained from foreign representations overseas or through the e-visa electronic system.

On 18 September, the UN Socio-Economic Response Plan for Armenia and the UN Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the COVID-19 crisis were launched as part of the Development Partners Coordination Forum. The Plan has five pillars: (i) Health First: Protecting Health Services and Systems during the Crisis; (ii) Protecting People: Social Protection and Basic Services; (iii) Economic Response and Recovery: Protecting Jobs, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, and Informal Sector Workers; (iv) Macroeconomic Response and Multilateral Collaboration; (v) Social Cohesion and Community Resilience.

From 1 February 2021, the “Travel without COVID-19” electronic programme allows Armenians to travel to the Russian Federation. Based on the negative COVID-19 test and through the electronic programme, a person will be able to cross the border between the two countries. According to the procedure, the citizen should take their passport to the eligible laboratory conducting PCR testing, and the laboratory enters the relevant information into the “Free Movement” state electronic information platform. The laboratory provides the citizen with a system-generated agreement with a QR code. The citizen should sign the agreement, download the mobile application, scan the QR code contained in the agreement, and then take the COVID-19 test. The test results are given in the app – if it is positive the code is red, if negative it is green. Before departure, the person must make sure that the information on the test results is available in the application and the date is no more than 72 hours before departure time and show the QR code at the border. If the test is positive, the relevant quarantine measures applies.  

On 2 March the Ministry of Health announced that the “Travel without COVID-19” electronic programme is extended until 1 April. Currently 10 private laboratories are accredited to do the testing for the programme: “Cito” medical center’s PCR laboratory, “Normed” medical center’s PCR laboratory, the laboratories of "Astghik" medical center, "BIOMED", "PROM-TEST", "ECOSENSE", "GISANE", "Arabkir" joint medical center & institute of child and adolescent health, “Sirmed” and "DIAGEN PLUS". In addition, there is no need to keep separately the test results of each family member on the phone anymore. The application has a new version which allows to keep the results of all travellers of the family in the application.

The Eurasian Development Bank intends to expand the “Travel without COVID-19” application based on positive reviews from the Russian Federation and other countries. A national segment will be created for Kazakhstan in the near future, so that they too can join the application, and work is ongoing with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to enable citizens to move more freely around the Eurasian region.

From 9 March 2020 the “visa free” regime with the Islamic Republic of Iran has been temporarily suspended [https://www.mfa.am/en/COVID-19/2020/03/09/co_ir/10148]

Air and land travel between Armenia and Georgia was restricted from 14-24 March 2020, except for citizens and holders of legal residency in both countries, staff of diplomatic missions and their family members, as well as officials holding mutual official visits [https://www.mfa.am/en/COVID-19/2020/03/14/arm_geo/10143]

Land and air communication with the Russian Federation was restricted from 17-24 March 2020 with some exceptions. [https://www.mfa.am/en/COVID-19/2020/03/18/arm_ru/10164]

From 16 March - 14 April 2020, entry to foreigners may be restricted based on travel from risk areas such as the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. With the State of Emergency from 16 March 2020, the borders were closed for passengers/travellers, except for a few flights. However, some goods/cargo were allowed for import and export. Armenian citizens will not be able to leave Armenia by land, except cargo transport drivers. All arrivals with coronavirus-like symptoms will be placed in self-isolation. [https://www.mfa.am/en/COVID-19/2020/03/22/COVID-19-Restrictions/10163] Restriction measures on internal transport have were introduced from 24 March until 18 March, including public transport.

On 17 May the village of Areni in the Vayots Dzor region went into lockdown. The Vayots Dzor regional governor said there are around 10 confirmed cases in the village (all are in relatively good health).

From 25 May to 3 June the Sevan community of Gegharkunik region is under lockdown, this was subsequently extended to 10 June. It is prohibited to enter or exit the community, unless it is necessary to supply food, medicine, fuel and other basic necessities. To ensure the implementation of the special regime, checkpoints will be installed by police and the National Security Service (NSS). A similar lockdown is in place in Zoragyugh (also in Gegharkunik region) following a serious outbreak linked to local funeral attendances. On 23 July, the community of Haterk in the Martakert region had temporary restrictions on entry and exit.

Social welfare
Government can use 150 billion AMD ($300 million USD, 2 percent of GDP) from the budget to mitigate the social consequences of COVID-19 without Parliament’s consent. Previously, parliamentary consent was necessary for any reallocation in the budget that exceeded 3%, and 150 billion AMD is 8.1% of the total budget. This will allow the government to be more flexible in implementing measures related to the pandemic.  The headline figure includes a variety of direct spending, state-sponsored loans and increased investment.

The Government has adopted a range of financial assistance packages for socially vulnerable households [ https://www.gov.am/en/covid19./] and [https://www.gov.am/en/covid-19-cragrer./].  As of 27 August, the authorities have adopted 24 support packages and allocated over 73 billion AMD ($137.9m) to them. As part of the 13th assistance programme alone, 1.2 billion AMD was allocated to about 85,000 families, impacting 300,000 citizens. If an individual qualifies for more than one package, then only the assistance under the most generous package is provided. The measures fall into three broad categories: (i) subsidized 2-3 year loans to provide short-term support to affected businesses and SMEs; (ii) direct subsidies to SMEs and businesses to help maintain their employees; (iii) grants to entrepreneurs and firms; (iv) lump-sum transfers to the vulnerable including individuals who were unemployed after the COVID-19 outbreak, families with or expecting children, micro-businesses, general population who needed help with utility bills, and temporary part-time employment [https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19].

The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs stated that the beneficiaries of the fourth and sixth programmes already have access to this funding (low-income families with children under 14 years of age and citizens who lost their jobs between 13-30 March). The citizens need to visit the ssa.am website, enter their data and find out if they can be beneficiaries of these programmes. The website also indicates which bank they can go to with an ID card and receive the one-time financial assistance. The beneficiaries of the seventh programme can start receiving the assistance from 10 April. Around 3,750 pregnant women will be able to receive the one-off financial assistance payment. The Minister noted that the list of the beneficiaries is constantly being updated, around 15,000 applications by pregnant women were submitted. For the eighth and the ninth programmes (8 – for people employed in hospitality, cosmetic services and other areas closed down during the State of Emergency and 9 – families with children aged 0-18 years where neither parent is in formal employment), the beneficiaries will be identified based on an application process. The eighth programme was further extended on 16 April to cover people employed in primary schools, public transport, sports facilities and entertainment and leisure industries.  On 7 May the government adopted the 17th assistance package that aims to support high-tech enterprises, as well as promote innovation.

On 18 June, the Government approved the 20th assistance package for employees of the sectors affected by COVID-19 (hotel industry, cafes and restaurants, entertainment and sport centres, cinemas, businesses providing photography or car rental services), who were employed even for 1 day between 1 March to 15 June. As part of this package, beneficiaries will receive a one-off minimum wage payment.

As of 8 April, about 290,000 citizens have been granted loan repayment holidays (amounting to 9.3 billion AMD of loans). Repayment holidays were also granted to 5,300 corporations on 15.4 billion AMD of loans. The twelfth assistance programme is for households which consume gas and electricity under a given threshold will have 30% of their utility bills paid by the government for the month of February.  The thirteenth package (adopted on 16 April) increases financial support for low-income families. A 14th assistance package (targeting students and their tuition fees) is not adopted yet and the discussions are in progress.

The government has approved an allocation of AMD 50 million ($100,000) to the country’s provinces. The allocated funds will be used to provide food and other essentials for socially vulnerable individuals who are infected with COVID-19 but are required to self-isolate at home due to either being asymptomatic or having light symptoms.

Financial support / guarantees for businesses
An assistance package for small- and medium-sized businesses that work in the tourism, agriculture, food and manufacturing industries. was ratified on 9 April 2020. Loans with low interest rates will be provided to agriculture sector. Fines for late tax returns from SMEs have been reduced. Under existing regulations, taxpayers must pay a 0.075% fine on overdue payments each day, this was reduced to 0.04% daily for overdue payments that have been incurred since 21 April.

As of 13 April, enterprises in the following sectors were allowed to re-open:
○ Tobacco production
○ Production of cement, lime, gypsum and plaster
○ Manufacture of concrete, cement and gypsum structures
○ Production of metal structures and their parts
○ Construction that is near completion phase
○ Engineering activities and related technical consultations

From midnight on 22 April, the following economic activities were allowed to recommence:
1. Most manufacturing industry;
2. Most wholesale and retail trade, car and motorcycle repair;
3. Information and communication (book publishing; production of TV programmes, etc.);
4. Real estate activity;
5. Professional, scientific and technical activities
6. Administrative and ancillary activities
7. Some services (trade union activities; repair of household electronic devices, appliances and computers; home gardening).

Home education support
The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports http://escs.am/en]  has launched distance learning platform for schools. [ [http://escs.am/en/news/6170] The Ministry has also prepared 95 video lessons, following the curriculum, which are available on the Ministry’s YouTube channel [https://www.youtube.com/user/armeduchannel] , Facebook page, as well as on UCOM, Rostelecom and Beeline, free of charge. The Ministry has also developed guidelines for teachers, parents and students, which are available online in text and video format. Additionally, the Ministry has launched an electronic platform for teachers, where information on how distance learning is organized in schools across Armenia is uploaded; over 80 percent of teachers are already registered.

There is also a collaboration among teachers in an eTwinning platform [https://www.etwinning.net/en/pub/index.htm], where the Ministry has launched a number of projects, with the involvement of 324 teachers and 3200 students, where teachers are organizing classes for students in rural communities or joint classes are being organized by several teachers.

It was announced at the end of April 2020 that there will be no in-person teaching for the rest of the academic year.  When the results of online education have been fully assessed, the Ministry whether the new academic year should start a week early and whether holding classes on Saturdays will be necessary to help students catch up. School examinations for this year were cancelled, but the joint university entrance exams went ahead from 2 July with strict sanitary protocols. On 10 August it was announced that all educational establishments will reopen on 15 September. 

The Ministry provides online plays and performances. In collaboration with the Cinematographer’s Union of Armenia and the Cinema Center, the Ministry has also broadcasted 14 animated films on webtv.am.