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Armenia Won’t Close Georgian Border After First Coronavirus Case


Armenai The main Armenian-Georgian border crossing at Bagratashen, 4Nov2016.

Armenia made clear on Thursday that it will not close its border with Georgia despite the first case of coronavirus reported there.

Georgia’s Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze said on Wednesday an infected Georgian citizen, who was traveling from Iran, entered the country from neighboring Azerbaijan on Tuesday. “He was immediately taken to hospital from the border checkpoint,” she said, according to Reuters.

The Armenian government discussed the reported case and downplayed its potential consequences for Armenia at a weekly meeting in Yerevan.

Health Minister Arsen Torosian said he talked to Tikaradze by phone earlier in the day. He said Georgian authorities swiftly isolated not only the infected person but also other individuals who travelled with him and checked his documents at a Georgian-Azerbaijani border crossing.

“I believe that with the emergence of a single case in Georgia the epidemiological situation has not changed substantially,” Torosian told Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and fellow cabinet members.

“It must be noted that the infected patient [in Georgia] … was in physical contact only with four employees of the border checkpoint,” Pashinian said for his part. “Those employees underwent [coronavirus] tests which came back negative. So in effect, we have no cases of infection inside Georgia.”

Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian speaks at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, February 27, 2020.
Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian speaks at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, February 27, 2020.

Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Torosian said the government therefore has no intention to temporarily shut the Armenian-Georgian border. “We are not considering that,” he said.

Georgia is the main transit route for goods shipped to and from Armenia. Georgian territory is also used by many Armenians travelling to Russia.

Earlier this week, Armenia partly closed its border with Iran and suspended regular flights between the two countries for two weeks following the first coronavirus deaths reported by Iranian authorities.

According to Torosian, no cases of coronavirus have been detected in Armenia so far. The minister refuted rumors that one person was hospitalized in Yerevan on Wednesday on suspicion of being infected by the virus. That patient suffered from a different medical condition, he told the press.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Torosian revealed that 95 people have undergone coronavirus tests in Armenia and that none of them has tested positive. “We now have 850 test kits, which is a sufficient quantity, and will receive 3,000 more test kits soon,” he added. “So we are well-equipped in that regard as well.”

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