The government could re-impose restrictions on people’s movements if coronavirus cases continue to spread in Armenia, a senior official said on Tuesday.
“We may again tighten restrictions if need be,” Vahan Hunanian, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Hunanian said that the government has still not decided whether to extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency which ends on Thursday. “When a final decision is made we will announce it,” he added.
The government declared the state of emergency on March 16 and imposed a nationwide lockdown a few days later in a bid to contain the coronavirus epidemic. It began easing the resulting restrictions already on April 13.
The lockdown was largely lifted by May 4 despite increased daily numbers of new COVID-19 infections and Health Minister Arsen Torosian’s warnings that the authorities will soon be unable to hospitalize or isolate all infected people.
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported 146 coronavirus cases on Tuesday morning, raising the country’s total to 3,538. It also said that one more person died from the virus in the past 24 hours. The official death toll from the epidemic thus reached 47.
The ministry has also reported the deaths of 19 other individuals infected with the COVID-19. It claims that they died as a result of other, pre-existing conditions.
Hasmik Ghazinian, an epidemiologist, said that the number of cases and fatalities is continuing to rise rapidly because the lockdown restrictions were not strict enough and were not taken seriously by many Armenians. “The restrictions that were put in place were not really restrictions,” she said.
Some restrictions such as a ban on public transport and the closure of schools and universities remain in force. Also, supermarkets, other shops and small businesses must require customers to wear face masks and gloves. Many of them do not comply with this requirement.
Ghazinian suggested that supermarkets’ failure to enforce social distancing and hygiene rules is one of the main causes of the continuing spread of the virus.