A new bill presented to the Armenian parliament would mandate all state employees to either be vaccinated or submit bi-weekly PCR tests. Some have raised complaints that high-ranking officials, including ministers, MPs, and judges would be exempted.
If the bill passes, it would come into force on 1 October. It would apply to all individuals working for the government and includes municipal employees, as well as privately employed individuals in several sectors including industrial production, construction, transport, retail, and education.
Pregnant women and those who have permission to forgo the vaccine for health reasons would also be exempted.
The bill would mandate vaccines and regular PCR tests for roughly 250,000 people in Armenia. The average cost of a PCR test in Armenia is roughly ֏ 10,000 ($20).
The Justice Ministry explained the exemptions for high-ranking officials as one connected to the fact that they supposedly do not have a supervisor who ‘appoints and dismisses’ them.
Speaking to RFE/RL, lawyer and labour law expert Arayin Papikyan criticised the law, in particular the exceptions for government officials as ‘discriminatory’ and in breach of Armenian labour law.
Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan has dismissed such accusations, as the highest echelons of the government have all already been vaccinated.
‘At this moment I can say that the prime minister, deputy prime ministers, ministers, deputy ministers’, she told reporters in a press conference. ‘I think we already have a 100% vaccination rate.’
According to a July poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI), 40% of the Armenian population is ready to be vaccinated.
As of 13 September, roughly 340,000 people have received at least one vaccine dose in Armenia, and about 120,000 or roughly 4% of the population have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccination in Armenia is free of charge and available for both citizens and foreigners. For the latter, the only requirement is spending at least ten days in the country.
[Read more: Vaccine tourism continues to boom in Armenia]