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Armenian Town Sealed Off Over Coronavirus Outbreak


Armenia -- A police checkpoint outside Maralik, April 20, 2020.

Authorities sealed off a small town and an adjacent village in Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province on Sunday after 18 employees of a local hospital tested positive for coronavirus.

Two local residents died from COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the virus, after the Armenian police set up roadblocks around the town of Maralik and the village of Dzorakap in the morning.

The head of the provincial administration’s healthcare department, Leyli Aslanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday that one of them, a 90-year-old man, was the father of an infected nurse working at the Maralik hospital.

Aslanian said that the old man was diagnosed with coronavirus just hours before his death. His family declined offers to hospitalize him even though he had a fever for almost a week, she said.

The Maralik hospital was temporarily shut down on Saturday after the 18 coronavirus cases were confirmed among its 61-member staff. Shirak’s governor, Tigran Petrosian, said the infected medical personnel were taken to a hospital in the provincial capital Gyumri while their colleages were placed under quarantine. The authorities also ordered more than 40 relatives and friends of the infected medics to self-isolate, he said.

Local officials did not disclose the suspected source of the infections. Another Maralik resident died from coronavirus early this month. The 68-year-old man was reportedly taken to the local medical center before being hospitalized in Gyumri.

The latest fatalties brought Armenia’s death toll from COVID-19 to 22. The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on Monday morning that the total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose by 48 to 1,339 in the past day.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, who oversees the enforcement of a coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia, announced his decision to lock down Maralik and Dzorakap on Saturday evening.

Avinian ordered the police to ensure that people can enter or leave the two adjacent communities only in cases of extreme necessity or for the purpose of agricultural work until April 25. The ban also does not cover trucks supplying food, fuel and medicine to the town of 5,000 residents located about 100 kilometers northwest of Yerevan.

All roads leading to Maralik were blocked by police checkpoints on Monday. “We only let through people with special permissions,” a policeman manning one of those checkpoints told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

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