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Health Minister Downplays Slower Spread Of Coronavirus In Armenia


Armenia --Health Minister Arsen Torosian gives a press conference, Yerevan, April 10, 2020.

Health Minister Arsen Torosian on Friday sounded a note of caution over a decreased rate of new coronavirus cases in Armenia, saying that the epidemic is not yet ending and requires continued “harsh” measures by the authorities.

According to the Armenian Ministry of Health, the total number of coronavirus cases rose by less than 2 percent, to 937, in the past day. The ministry also reported two more fatalities which raised the country’s coronavirus death toll to 12.

The official figure marked the fifth consecutive day of a relatively slow spread of the virus in the country. The daily number of COVID-19 infections rose by over 10 percent earlier in April and in late March.

“We cannot reckon that the spread is stopping or dying down by 100 percent,” said Torosian. “Why? Because while we previously had 50 cases [a day,] they typically originated from a single source: for example, 50 employees of a large manufacturing plant. Now we are having 16, 20 or 30 cases a day but from 10 or 20 different sources.”

This is making it harder for the authorities to identify and isolate people who have been in contact with known COVID-19 patients, he told members of an Armenian parliament committee on healthcare and social affairs.

“We must take these [epidemiological] actions as long as we can,” Torosian went on. “When we become exhausted … we will have to give up some of these actions and keep only testing and treatment and stop doing isolations because the spread will be very serious and they won’t make sense.”

Armenia -- Healthcare workers are seen outside the Nork hospital in Yerevan which deals with most coronavirus case in Armenia, March 20, 2020.
Armenia -- Healthcare workers are seen outside the Nork hospital in Yerevan which deals with most coronavirus case in Armenia, March 20, 2020.

The Armenian government declared a state of emergency on March 16 and went on to issue stay-at-home orders and close nonessential businesses in an effort to contain the epidemic. It has to decide by Monday whether to extend the one-month emergency rule and the resulting lockdown.

Torosian signaled support for such an extension, saying that the restrictions on people’s movement have already saved hundreds of lives.

“All that is due to our measures taken in the last two months,” he said, pointing to Armenia’s small death toll. “They are very harsh for the economy, people’s psyche and the workload of medical personnel, but these are the results we have at the moment.”

“Our task is to move forward while keeping the number of deaths and the burden on hospitals low,” added the minister. “We now feel a bit more confident in terms of the number of hospital beds and lung ventilation devices at our disposal.”

Armenia imported 120 such ventilators, 60,000 coronavirus test kits, 340,000 medical masks, 100,000 pieces of protective medical clothing as well as medication from China earlier this week. The medical supplies were purchased by the Armenian government or donated by Chinese authorities and private benefactors from the two countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian said on Friday that Armenia will receive another 100,000 test kits “in the coming days.” He reaffirmed government plans to significantly expand COVID-19 testing.

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