A hospital and a policlinic in a small town in eastern Armenia will resume their work on Wednesday more than two weeks after dozens of their employees were infected with coronavirus.
Authorities sealed off the town of Vartenis on April 22 after registering 47 cases of coronavirus there. They said that 21 of the infected people are doctors, nurses and other people working at the local medical centers.
One of them, a policlinic doctor, was identified as the primary source of the COVID-19 outbreak in the local community 160 kilometers northeast of Yerevan. Both facilities were temporarily shut down and their staff placed under quarantine as a result.
Gnel Sanosian, the governor of the surrounding Gegharkunik province, announced on Tuesday that all 76 employees of the hospital and the 64 policlinic staffers tested negative for the virus at the end of the two-week isolation.
Sanosian said that the hospital and the policlinic will therefore be reopened on Wednesday. They will follow “all necessary anti-epidemic rules,” he added in a Facebook post.
All roads leading to Vartenis will remain closed at least until Thursday. It is not yet clear whether the authorities will extend the lockdown later this week.
Health Minister Arsen Torosian has described mass infections among medical personnel as one of the factors behind the continuing spread of coronavirus in Armenia. According to him, 320 healthcare workers across Armenia have contracted the disease so far, accounting for more than 12 percent of all coronavirus cases confirmed to date.
“This is certainly a very unfortunate but the same time inevitable phenomenon,” Torosian wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “You can probably imagine how difficult things get for the healthcare system when it has to treat or isolate people who themselves are supposed to treat coronavirus patients.”
Torosian also said that his ministry had ordered medics who are aged over 60 or suffer from serious chronic illness to stay at home as much as possible. This has helped to prevent coronavirus-related deaths among doctors and nurses, he said.
The Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday morning that the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose by 112 to 2,619 in the past day. It also said that the death toll from the virus reached 40.
Torosian warned on Monday that the number of the cases could quadruple by the end of this month if Armenians fail to observe physical distancing and take other precautions against the virus.
The warning came as the Armenian government essentially ended a nationwide lockdown imposed in late March. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Sunday that citizens must now share with the government “responsibility” for tackling the epidemic and minimizing its consequences.