BY M. MKHITAR MORADIAN, PH.D.
The number of coronavirus (COVID19) cases caused by SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus-2) has increased exponentially in the past month after the Armenian government opened the society to business as usual. The number of deaths has followed suit (see graphs Below). It started a few months ago when during a rally for his referendum to oust the constitutional court in Sisian, prime minister Pashinyan referred to the coronavirus disease as a common cold (գռիպ), intending to downplay it following the expressions of some of the more prominent leaders in the world. Luckily, when the coronavirus disease showed up in the Republic of Armenia (RA) he followed the world experts’ recommendations and announced a quarantine, which slowed the spread of the coronavirus. The real issue arose when his government announced to reopen the economy and go back to business as usual without any real planning, arrangement, or vision.
The lack of experience and expertise in the Armenian government has been a subject of discussion for sometimes now where recent graduates or individuals with little to no leadership experience have been granted highly responsible governmental posts, including ministries. The ministry of health was no exception and as I have stated in my previous articles, the ministry of health has made several irresponsible moves such as closing the HIV/AIDS research center/clinic in the capital and childbirth centers in the border villages. Although unacceptable their closure has impacted a relatively smaller group of people than the coronavirus disease has. The fact that there was little to no plan from the ministry of health presented to the Armenian people before the reopening of the economy is troubling as we witness the consequences now. The coronavirus disease is spreading exponentially, the hospitals are close to their capacity, and more and more Armenians are dying everyday.
The guidelines and plans implemented in the developed countries are public knowledge, in fact, many healthcare professionals such as myself, a diasporan, have been involved in creating some of the guidelines. Yet, the ministry of health has not inquired, learned, or implemented any. I kept asking myself and my colleagues in the RA if the reopening guidelines would be shared, publicized, and enforced when the Armenia government announced the reopening of the economy, yet I was not able to find a concrete answer. This lack of planning, medical expertise, and leadership qualities are mainly responsible for the exponential growth of the pandemic in the country.
I would like to continue with a quote from a great American president Dwight Eisenhower: “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” I would also like to remind prime minister Pashinyan, who likes to discredit his critiques by either labeling them as the agents of the previous regime or anti velvet-revolution, that the coronavirus disease cannot be attributed to neither, it’s a natural phenomenon. Thus, there is no veil to hide behind and to blame others. You have been the prime minister for over 2 years and anything happening in the country is your responsibility. Running a country is not like playing a video game where you can change your opponents or kill them, it is real, so is the coronavirus disease, which is killing Armenians everyday. Rather than threatening the opposition with a “political tombstone” you need to get your act together and pull the country out of this dire situation. You may start by:
- Providing information on how serious and lethal the coronavirus disease can be
- Implementing social distancing measures to its full extent
- Making wearing a mask mandatory and enforce it
- Restaurants, bars, and eateries should operate at half capacity. Tables should be at least 2 meters apart. Only family members could eat together, strangers should keep the 2 meter distance
- All workplaces, including the government agencies should check the temperature for high fever, anyone with a fever of over 38∞c should see a doctor or a healthcare professional and self-quarantine
- Police and security forces should enforce these guidelines and make sure all the citizens follow
- Children should stay away from each other in playgrounds since they can transmit the coronavirus disease without symptoms
- Increase the testing capacity, at this time, there is only one private laboratory who has license to test for the virus. This testing is not very complicated and can be performed by any clinical laboratory. I have given a lecture to the scientific community in Armenia and extended my help to set up testing on a large scale
- Refrain from making claims that the RA is manufacturing testing kits, this is no trivial task and requires technology that is non-existent in the country
- Actively educate the Armenian people on how to slow the spread of the virus by following strict social distancing and other guidelines through TV, radio, and other type of media
- Send daily communiques to the Armenian people and stress importance of the guidelines and that they must unconditionally follow them.
The points mentioned above are examples of guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease. Neighboring Georgia has effectively implemented them. Since it is apparent that your government members are not capable of coming up with effective plans and guidelines then they should at least learn from others. You, as their leader, should stop attacking the opposition who rightfully criticizes the inability of your government in handling the coronavirus disease spread in the country. By threatening to put them in their graves or accusing them of treason you are doing a disservice to the Armenian people. Many of your critiques liberated most of the Artsakh from Azeris while you were a teenager. Perhaps you guessed it right, I am talking about the Armenian Revolutionary Federation members. Let me remind you that throughout the past 130 years the Ottomans tried, the Soviets tried, the Turks tried, the Azeris tried, Levon Ter-Petrosian tried and they all failed. Get the picture.
By the way, it is a virus not a bacillus. Bacilli are bacteria.