Health authorities are setting up hundreds of additional hospital beds to cope with a continuing rise in coronavirus cases in Armenia.
The Armenian Ministry of Health on Thursday added the country’s largest hospital, the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, to the list of hospitals that are currently treating only people infected with coronavirus.
Dozens of ambulances began transporting its patients suffering from other diseases to three other hospitals also located in Yerevan.
“We will finish [the evacuation] today and be ready to admit [coronavirus] patients starting from tomorrow,” Grigorich Lusavorich’s deputy director, Petros Manukian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Manukian said that around 400 hospital beds, including those of an intensive care unit, will be made available for that purpose.
Eight other hospitals located in Yerevan and four other cities were turned into COVID-19 clinics last month. According Health Minister Arsen Torosian, a total of 16 medical centers across the country are currently treating coronavirus patients.
Torosian said on Thursday that the authorities are also making contingency plans to convert indoor sports arenas into makeshift hospitals that would accommodate hundreds and possibly thousands of more patients. “We must be prepared for any scenario,” he told a news conference.
More than a hundred beds have already been placed at Yerevan’s Karen Demirchian Sports and Concert Complex, Armenia’s largest concert hall.
The urgent measures were announced as the number of officially registered coronavirus cases in the county reached 663, up from 571 cases reported on Wednesday morning.
Torosian said that the vast majority of the 92 persons who tested positive for the virus in the past day had come into contact with known COVID-19 patients. Others include Armenians who were infected abroad and returned home in recent weeks, the minister said at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
The Ministry of Health also reported another coronavirus-related death on Thursday, raising the nationwide death toll from the virus to 5. In Torosian’s words, four other people infected with the disease are in a critical condition. No other patients are connected to lung ventilators at present, he added.
Coronavirus cases in the country are thus continuing to rise despite stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and business shutdowns initiated by the Armenian government. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian blamed that on “widespread complacency” among Armenians.
“It is this complacency which is creating the danger of a faster pace of infections,” complained Pashinian. He stressed at the same time that “the situation is still manageable.”
Torosian also informed Pashinian and fellow cabinet members that the health authorities will sharply increase the number of coronavirus tests which have reportedly averaged over 200 a day in the past week.
“Very soon 400-500 tests will be conducted on a daily basis,” he said. “This number will reach 1,500 after we acquire new equipment.”
The equipment also includes 100 ventilators which are due to be shipped from China to Armenia in the coming days. Armenian hospitals currently have more than 70 such life-saving devices set aside for coronavirus cases.