Citing the growing number of coronavirus cases in Armenia, Health Minister Arsen Torosian announced on Tuesday that authorities will stop in the coming days hospitalizing or isolating most people testing positive for COVID-19.
All such people have until now been taken to hospitals or hotels turned into temporary medical care centers.
Torosian said that infected individuals showing mild symptoms of the virus or none at all will be told to self-isolate at home. “Within several days” the health authorities will also send home hundreds of presently isolated asymptomatic patients, he said in an appeal to healthcare workers posted on Facebook.
“This change results from two factors,” Torosian wrote. “The first one is the number of citizens testing positive, which is growing by the day, while the second one is a change in our strategy of managing symptomatic cases in terms of the optimal use of hospital beds and other resources.”
Torosian said that medical personnel of hospitals, policlinics and rural primary healthcare facilities across the country will now be responsible for monitoring the condition of patients to be placed in home confinement.
For this purpose, he said, the Armenian Ministry of Health will organize online course for them. “I am asking and calling on you to actively participate in them,” added the minister.
Torosian warned of the impending switch to home confinement late last month amid growing daily numbers of new coronavirus cases registered by his ministry following the easing of nationwide lockdown restrictions which began in mid-April. With virtually all remaining restrictions lifted by the end of last week, the spread of the virus in the country has continued unabated.
The Ministry of Health reported 218 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday morning, raising the total number of cases to 5,041. It also said that three more people died from the virus in the past day. The official death toll from the epidemic thus reached 64.
According to the health authorities, the total number of active coronavirus cases currently stands at about 2,800. More than 2,160 other Armenians have recovered from the disease.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian downplayed the rapidly rising number of cases when he spoke at a news conference on Saturday. Pashinian argued that more than 70 percent of the infected people are essentially asymptomatic and only a fraction of about 700 COVID-19 patients suffering from pneumonia are in a critical or serious condition. Armenia will face a serious health crisis only “if the number of seriously ill people exceeds 1,400,” he said.
Pashinian sounded far more concerned about the coronavirus crisis in a video address to the nation streamed live on Facebook on Tuesday. He warned that coronavirus cases in the country are now on course to double by the end of this month and reach 20,000 by June 12.
“If we don’t break this dynamics, don’t change the pace [of the disease spread,] don’t drastically cut this dynamics we will be faced with a very serious problem and dozens and perhaps even hundreds of people will die here every day,” he said. “This means that we would have to re-impose the strictest possible restrictions.”
“But we still have a chance to avoid doing that and the only way to avoid doing that is the personal responsibility of each of us,” he added.
Pashinian already repeatedly urged Armenians to practice social distancing and take other precautions against the virus in previous weeks. He said on May 3 that they must now share with their government responsibility for tackling the epidemic and minimizing its consequences.
Some critics of the government denounced those 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. They also believe that the authorities ended the lockdown too soon.