Health Minister Arsen Torosian acknowledged on Wednesday that Armenia’s coronavirus outbreak is deteriorating after the daily number of confirmed infections in the country reached a new record high following the virtual lifting of a nationwide lockdown.
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported in the morning that 163 people tested positive for coronavirus in the past day, raising the total number of cases to 2,782. It said that the death toll from the COVID-19 epidemic remains unchanged at 40.
The ministry has also reported the deaths of seven other individuals infected with the virus. It says that they died from other, pre-existing diseases.
“The situation is increasingly becoming more difficult as evidenced by the numbers,” Torosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“Unfortunately, we are on a rising trajectory at the moment,” he said. “We are still coping in terms of [hospital] capacity.”
Torosian warned last week that the health authorities will soon be no longer able to hospitalize or isolate all infected people.
The authorities set up last month 1,500 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. According to the Ministry of Health, some 1,600 patients were treated by medics in hospitals or hotels across the country as of Tuesday.
Torosian said that due to the rising numbers the Armenian government may again extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency which is due to end on May 14. But he did not comment on the possibility of restoring lockdown restrictions that had been imposed in late March.
Those restrictions, including a ban on most types of business activity, were largely lifted by May 4. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on May 3 that Armenians must now share with the government “responsibility” for tackling the epidemic and minimizing its consequences. Pashinian urged them to abide by social distancing and hygiene rules set by the authorities.
Torosian likewise said that the further spread of the potentially lethal disease “depends on each of us, not just me or the government.” “We have to learn to live [with coronavirus,]” he said. “For example, to wear face masks in closed spaces and keep a safe distance from each other.”
Some critics of the government have condemned these statements, saying that the authorities are trying to dodge responsibility for their lax enforcement of stay-at-home orders and failure to contain the epidemic.