Armenia to replace state of emergency with quarantine measures – what's the difference?
The Armenian parliament has adopted a set of legislative measures to prevent the further extension of the state of emergency, announced at the start of the epidemic on March 16 and which has been extended five times since.
The state of emergency ends on September 11.
The changes make it possible to introduce quarantine in the event of infectious diseases entering the territory of the country, the risk of their occurrence, spread, and epidemic outbreaks. Moreover, quarantine can be announced in specific cities or villages, and even in individual organizations, rather than across the entire country. At the end of the state of emergency, the commandant’s office will cease operations.
The opposition, which has long insisted that the state of emergency be lifted, did not agree with the change to quarantine and voted against it.
Their main argument is that the word “quarantine” can mislead foreign partners, and accordingly, will not open their borders to Armenian citizens.
The opposition insisted on dropping the term and simply maintaining reasonable anti-epidemic restrictions across the country.
At the same time, the ruling majority remains certain that words do not matter, and insist that it’s the epidemic situation in the country itself that is more important. In addition, it is already known that Russia and Georgia will not open their borders to the residents of Armenia in the near future.
What is the difference
The main difference between quarantine and a state of emergency is that, at the suggestion of the Ministry of Health, it can be established not only by the government – throughout the country, but also by the mayor of Yerevan and governors – in specific territories.
Quarantine can only be put in place for up to six months. However, if it has already been declared by a governor somewhere, and it is known that after a while it will be introduced country-wide, then, by decision of the government, the term of restrictions can be extended from six months to a year.
Quarantine, like a state of emergency, involves a special regime of entry and exit, restriction of the freedom of movement of people and vehicles.
If necessary, the right to conduct and participate in mass and public events, business entities, and educational institutions may be restricted.
One of the arguments against the proposed set of amendments was the following: under the state of emergency in Armenia, although restrictions on the rights of citizens are introduced, the parliament has the right to cancel them.
“If a quarantine is imposed, parliament will not have the authority to lift certain restrictions… which, in my opinion, is a serious problem, “said Arkady Khachatryan, an MP from the opposition party, Enlightened Armenia.
The opposition is concerned, in particular, about the possible restriction of the right to organize protest actions.
Deputy Minister of Justice, Rafik Grigoryan, explained that if quarantine is introduced throughout the country, rallies will be allowed, however only in masks and with respect for social distance.
For several months, the head of the Enlightened Armenia parliamentary faction has himself insisted that the government refuse to extend the state of emergency. Edmon Marukyan believes that this legal regime inflicts “irreparable damage” on the country, but replacing it with quarantine not only does not solve the existing problems, but also creates new ones.
The Deputy is primarily concerned about the possibility of entering and exiting the country, because he believes that it is necessary to at least change the term “quarantine”, which may cause fears of international partners,
The opposition party, Prosperous Armenia, shares the fears of its colleagues.
“Of course, with the use of the word quarantine, no country will open an air border with Armenia. People cannot leave the country and this is a huge problem. Our compatriots who live in Russia are protesting in front of the parliament building…it is necessary for us to resolve the issue related to the work of these citizens, otherwise they will be here as hostages. This legislative initiative is unacceptable for the Prosperous Armenia Party,” said MP Naira Zohrabyan from Prosperous Armenia.
About opening borders
Deputy speaker Alain Simonyan met with the protesters who gathered outside the parliament building and demanded that the issue of their departure to Russia be resolved.
According to him, negotiations are underway on this issue, but Russia is unlikely to open the border earlier than in a month:
“Russia says that they have a problem – an epidemic. If they accept the citizens of Armenia, then how can they refuse others? We are currently trying to negotiate the restoration of flights”.
As for the land road through Georgia, the Deputy speaker said that this border can be opened only after the parliamentary elections in Georgia:
“National elections are scheduled for October 31 in Georgia. Until the elections are held, they will not open the country.”