According to new regulations in Armenia, non-vaccinated employees in both the public and private sectors must take PCR tests every week. Authorities have also announced that possession of a vaccine passport will be obligatory to enter public spaces such as bars and restaurants as of January.
The weekly PCR tests will cost roughly ֏40,000 ($80) per person per month — roughly 20% of the average monthly wage in the country. Previously, public and private sector workers were required to take the tests twice a month.
Parliament is also set to vote on a bill that would grant employers also have the right to fire or suspend anyone who fails to follow the regulations.
High-ranking government officials such as ministers and members of parliament will be excluded from the testing and vaccination regime.
At present, Armenia has the lowest vaccination rate in the South Caucasus, with only 15% fully vaccinated.
Despite a plethora of scientific evidence that vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection and death from COVID-19, many in Armenia have remained hesitant about getting vaccinated.
Earlier this autumn, Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan bemoaned an ‘irrational attitude’ towards vaccines among the Armenian population as a result of COVID-19 disinformation — some of it stemming from doctors and nurses.
‘There are not many doctors involved in anti-vaccination propaganda, but they are very active’, Avanesyan said.
Ani Khachatryan, a sales assistant working in Yerevan, told OC Media that acquaintances who are health workers have advised her to delay getting an anti-COVID jab. ‘I personally too want to wait a bit and see what vaccine is the most reliable’, she said.
She also said that online debate about the efficacy of vaccines has added to her doubts. ‘My mother is reading too much fake information on the internet and believes there’s no COVID at all’, she said. ‘I can’t prove her wrong’.
The most-preferred vaccine in the country is the Chinese-made Sinopharm, which has been chosen by over 40% of those vaccinated in Armenia. Despite reserves of both AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V, Armenian authorities have purchased another 200,000 doses of Sinopharm
In late September, Armenia also started manufacturing the single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine.
Corrections: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that a law granting employers the right to fire or suspend anyone who fails to follow COVID regulations had passed parliament, as of yet, it has not. Additionally, it also misstated that Armenia plans to require proof of vaccination from all foreign citizens entering the country.