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Health Minister Urges More Efforts To Fight Coronavirus


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

Health Minister Arsen Torosian called for “additional efforts” to slow the spread of coronavirus in Armenia on Tuesday after authorities reported the highest daily increase in infections in more than two weeks.

The Armenian Ministry of Health said in the morning that the number of coronavirus cases rose by 62, to 1,401, while 29 other persons recovered from COVID-19 in the past day. It also reported two more fatalities which raised the country’s death toll from the virus to 24.

Torosian said that official statistics for the last several days indicate a “steady” rate of new infections standing at 3-4 percent. “We also have approximately the same number of hospitalized people which varies from 700 to 800,” he wrote on Facebook.

But the minister also said: “This means that we all must make additional efforts to lower the peace of the spread [of the disease] and have no right to relax and lose our vigilance.”

“Especially worrying are recent days’ cases [of infection] among healthcare workers at medical centers in Yerevan and regions,” he added. “The use of personal protective equipment is far more important for healthcare workers than for other citizens.”

Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian at a news conference in Yerevan, March 26, 2020.
Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian at a news conference in Yerevan, March 26, 2020.

Hasmik Ghazinian, a senior doctor at Yerevan’s Nork hospital treating only COVID-19 patients, complained that many Armenians are not following social distancing rules or wearing masks or gloves when leaving their homes. She warned of a surge in infections in the days ahead.

“Our doctors, medical personnel are acting heroically on the frontline [of the fight against coronavirus,] … but the rear (other citizens) does not seem to be safeguarding the achievements of the frontline workers,” Ghazinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

“I think the reason for this is that people are not taking [the epidemic] seriously and believe that it’s based on false information,” said Giorgi Kantaria, a doctor from the Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital who is currently treating about 100 infected people quarantined at a Yerevan hotel.

“I want to assure them that it’s real and their help is also necessary,” said Kantaria. “Doctors’ help is not enough.”

Such appeals fell on deaf ears in the northern city of Vanadzor where more than 2,000 employees of a local textile factory defied a government to return to their workplaces on Tuesday one month after being put on unpaid leave. Police officers fined several of them but had to leave the Gloria company’s premises after being confronted by hundreds of mostly female workers.

Armenia -- Gloria factory owner Bagrat Darbinian (L) argues with a police officer, Vanadzor, April 21, 2020.
Armenia -- Gloria factory owner Bagrat Darbinian (L) argues with a police officer, Vanadzor, April 21, 2020.

The angry women said they want the factory to immediately resume its work because they are no longer able to support themselves and their families. They claimed that they have not received financial assistance allocated by the Armenian government to tens of thousands of people hit hard by economic disruptions resulting from the epidemic.

Gloria’s owner, Bagrat Darbinian, insisted, for his part, that he did not tell his workers to report for work in the absence of a government permission.

The government ordered the closure of most nonessential business in the country as part of a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 24. It allowed some of them, notably construction firms, to resume their work on April 13. The permission is supposedly conditional on their compliance with coronavirus-related safety rules

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced last week plans to also reopen other sectors of the Armenian economy, including the textile industry, on April 20. However, the government appears to have delayed that decision at least until next week.

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