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Armenian Authorities ‘Still Able’ To Isolate All COVID-19 Carriers


Armenia -- A medical worker clad in protecive gear and an ambulance parked at the entrance to Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital, Yerevan, April 8, 2020.

Armenian health authorities are still able to hospitalize or isolate all people testing positive for coronavirus as it continues to spread in the country, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The ministry reported 145 new infections which raised the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 3,029. It said that one more person, a 48-year-old woman, has died from the virus, bringing the official death toll to 43.

The ministry has also reported the deaths of 10 other individuals infected with the virus. It says that they died from other, pre-existing diseases.

Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned last week that the health authorities will soon be no longer able to hospitalize or isolate all infected people.

Armenia has a total of 1,550 hospital beds set aside for COVID-19 patients. The number of active cases reached 1,758 on Friday morning, according to Alina Nikoghosian, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health.

Nikoghosian said that many of these patients are monitored or treated by doctors at hotels isolated from the outside world. “We are talking about people showing no symptoms at all,” she explained.

Despite the rising number of infections, the Armenian government essentially ended on Monday a nationwide lockdown imposed by it in late March. It specifically lifted a temporary ban on virtually all types of business activity.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said that the onus now is also on ordinary Armenians to stop the spread of the virus. Some critics have accused his government of trying to dodge responsibility for its lax enforcement of stay-at-home orders and failure to contain the epidemic.

Arman Badalian, an epidemiologist, warned that the lifting of lockdown restrictions could speed up the spread of the virus. “A rapid spread of infections would lead to the collapse of the healthcare system as was the case in Italy, Spain and other countries,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Armenia -- Epidemiologist Arman Badalian, May 7, 2020.
Armenia -- Epidemiologist Arman Badalian, May 7, 2020.

Badalian said the government should strictly enforce its social distancing and hygiene rules instead of relying on people’s health consciousness. Many business owners, their employees and other citizens are not taking “elementary” precautions against the virus, he said.

Random interviews on the streets of Yerevan suggest that many Armenians are still not taking the virus seriously.

“I don’t wear a mask and I don’t believe the virus exists,” said one woman flanked by her mother and teenage son. “God is on my side.”

“I don’t believe in coronavirus,” said a young man. He argued that he does not know of anyone infected with it.

There was also widespread evidence of shops and supermarkets not requiring customers to wear face masks and gloves contrary to a government order. In one supermarket located in Yerevan’s southern Shengavit district very few shoppers wore them on Thursday.

The supermarket administration refused to explain why it is not enforcing the requirement. It only pointed to supermarket workers wearing masks and gloves.

A smaller food store located in the area notified people of the requirement but still let in some unprotected customers. Its manager, Davit Khosrovian, said many elderly people claim to have trouble breathing through masks. “It’s hard to tell whether they really have such problems,” he said.

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