Armenia said on Tuesday that it will evacuate at least 65 of its citizens from neighboring Iran hit by the new coronavirus.
The announcement followed the Armenian government’s decision to close the Armenian-Iranian border for individual travel and essentially suspend flights between the two countries for two weeks.
The border will remain for open cargo shipments to and from Iran. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian indicated on Monday that the drivers of Iranian trucks entering Armenia will be monitored by Armenian health authorities.
Pashinian also stressed that Armenian nationals living in Iran will be able to return to their home country by land or air. Iranians based in Armenia will likewise remain free to go back to the Islamic Republic, he said.
According to a senior official from the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan, Arsen Avagian, 65 Armenians in Iran have responded to an evacuation offer made by the Armenian Embassy in Tehran late last week. They are due to be flown to Yerevan on Wednesday, Avagian said in written comments to Aysor.am.
The official noted that some of these individuals are dual citizens of both Armenia and Iran.
A much larger number of Armenians lived and worked in China until the outbreak of coronavirus there last month. Around 200 of them returned to Armenia by the beginning of this month, according to government estimates. Many others had trouble doing the same due to the widespread cancellation of flights to and from China.
In an update posted on its website on Tuesday, the Armenian Ministry of Health said it has registered no “confirmed cases” of coronavirus in Armenia so far. It said it is continuing to take precautionary measures against the possible spread of the deadly virus.
“The ministry has acquired a new batch of test kits and has no problems now in terms of diagnosing [coronavirus,]” the statement said, adding that it is also trying to import more medical masks and disinfectants to the country.
In Iran, meanwhile, two more people infected with coronavirus died on Tuesday, raising to 14 the total number of coronavirus deaths reported by the Iranian authorities. Citing the authorities, the Reuters news agency reported that 61 people were infected and around 900 other cases were suspected in Iran as of Monday.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the Iranian government has ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts, soccer matches, closures of schools and universities in many provinces as a precaution.