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Pashinian Signals No Need Yet For Suspending Referendum Campaign Over Coronavirus


Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian talking to journalists during a campaign rally in Jermuk, March 12, 2020

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday continued his tour of Armenian towns campaigning in next month’s constitutional referendum, signaling no need yet for suspending public rallies in view of new coronavirus cases confirmed in Armenia.

Armenian authorities reported three new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to four.

The country’s Ministry of Health said that two of the people testing positive for the novel coronavirus infection known as COVID-19 were citizens of Armenia aged 45 and 27 and one was a 51-year-old Italian who works in Armenia. All three had arrived from Italy, officials said.

The first coronavirus patient indentified in Armenia on March 1 had arrived from Iran, another country hit hard by COVID-19.

Over three dozen people have been quarantined in a disused hotel in Armenia’s resort town of Tsaghkadzor since the beginning of the month as a precaution against the further spread of the infection.

Prime Minister Pashinian, who was visiting the central resort town of Jermuk today, said that authorities had been taking measures to identify the scope of contacts of the new coronavirus patients in order to place them under quarantine, too. “This could also be home quarantines,” he said.

Later on Thursday Health Minister Arsen Torosian reported in a Facebook post that all people who may have had close contacts with the new coronavirus patients had been identified and isolated. “A total of 57 persons have been isolated,” the minister said.

Talking to media today Pashinian also promised that his government will keep the public informed on the coronavirus-related situation, including if the number of cases and risks increase. As for his campaign rallies ahead of the April 5 constitutional referendum, the prime minister said: “As you see, at the moment the campaign is ongoing. If there is a need to suspend it, we will do so. As long as we don’t do so, it means there is no need for doing that.”

Since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Armenia the South Caucasus country’s authorities tightened controls at the border with Iran and re-introduced entry visas for Iranian citizens.

On March 10, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Armenian citizens to refrain from visiting Italy and those who are currently in Italy to “urgently suspend their trips and return to Armenia.” That same day budget airline Ryanair announced suspension of all flights from Yerevan to Italy and back until April 8.

Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian has announced that a charter flight from Rome to Yerevan will be organized on March 15 to evacuate Armenian citizens from Italy.

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