Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Wednesday that his government may re-impose lockdown restrictions after the daily number of coronavirus cases registered in Armenia reached a new record high.
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported 180 new cases and one more death earlier in the day. The total number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus thus reached 3,718 while the official death toll rose to 48.
The ministry has also reported the deaths of 21 other individuals infected with COVID-19. It claims that they died as a result of other, pre-existing conditions.
“For several days running more than 100 coronavirus cases are registered [on a daily basis,] which means that anti-epidemic rules are widely not followed in our country,” Pashinian said in a live Facebook transmission.
“If new infections continue rising at this rate we will have to again impose restrictions, and the purpose of the restrictions will be to prevent a situation where citizens in need of medical aid are left without medical aid,” he warned. “But we all can avoid that situation through personal responsibility.”
“I am asking you to strictly follow anti-epidemic rules,” he added, urging Armenians to maintain physical distancing, avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands and use only clean tableware.
Pashinian already called for these safety precautions as the Armenian government began easing in mid-April a nationwide lockdown imposed in late March. Although the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 infections rose in the following weeks, the government lifted all restrictions on people’s movements’ and allowed the vast majority of all businesses to resume their work by May 4.
Pashinian declared on May 3 that the onus is now not only on his government but also on ordinary citizens to stop the spread of the virus.
Critics accused the prime minister of trying to dodge responsibility for the Armenian authorities’ failure to contain the epidemic. They said the authorities never properly enforced the lockdown, ended it too soon and are now paying the consequences.
Pashinian defended the government’s “decentralized tactic of fighting against coronavirus” in his latest address to the nation. But he also complained: “I can now see people in the streets shaking hands … standing very close to each other and talking. This is a big problem and at this pace [of the disease spread] we could face a very serious crisis.”
Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned on May 4 that the number of coronavirus cases in Armenia could quadruple by the end of this month. During a weekend inspection of the country’s largest hospital treating COVID-19 patients, Torosian noted the virtual absence of vacant hospital beds at its intensive care unit.