The governments of Georgia and Lithuania have offered to send medical teams to Armenia to help authorities there deal with the country’s worsening coronavirus crisis.
It remained unclear on Friday whether the Armenian authorities have agreed to deploy foreign doctors to Armenia’s increasingly overstretched hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
“Lithuania continues standing by our Armenian friends,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted on Wednesday. “Today Lithuanian Government decided to send a medical team and experts to Armenia aimed at helping to combat COVID-19.”
Yerevan received on Thursday similar offers from neighboring Georgia which has been far more successful in containing the spread of the coronavirus. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said his government is now discussing details of its aid with the Armenian side. He said Tbilisi will likely send medics to Armenia.
Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze spoke with her Armenian counterpart Arsen Torosian by phone later on Thursday. Tikaradze said she reaffirmed her government’s readiness to dispatch doctors as well as medical equipment.
The Armenian Ministry of Health made no mention of that offer in a statement on the phone conversation. It said the two ministers discussed “possibilities of mutual assistance” and agreed to set up a “permanent platform for the exchange of experience” in the fight against COVID-19.
Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian spoke, meanwhile, of a “long list” of countries and international organizations ready to help Armenia tackle the crisis. But he did not name any of them.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian implied, for his part, that his country does not yet need foreign aid but will not refuse it either. “We believe that real friends emerge in difficult times and we will certainly accept assistance from those countries that make friendly gestures towards us,” Pashinian told a news briefing on Thursday.
Torosian warned on June 4 that Armenia’s healthcare system is now so overstretched that hospitals may soon be unable to admit all infected citizens in need of urgent treatment. He announced afterwards that the health authorities will set up soon 350 new hospital beds to treat the increased number of people infected with the virus.
The health minister insisted on Thursday that Armenian hospitals are still able to give life-saving treatment to all patients.
Torosian seemed more concerned about the daily number of new infections in Armenia when he spoke to journalists on Friday. “All our actions must be aimed at restraining the [infection] numbers and not just increasing [hospital] capacity,” he said.
“Saying that let’s just increase capacity and hospitalize everyone means not doing enough to save as many lives as possible,” he added.
Torosian’s ministry reported on Friday morning that the number of coronavirus cases in Armenia rose by 612 to 15,281 in the past day. It also reported 13 new deaths caused by COVID-19, bringing the official death toll to 258.
Georgia, which has a larger population, has registered only 837 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths to date.
Armenian opposition groups regularly cite Georgia’s COVID-19 record in their intensifying criticism of the Pashinian government’s response to the deadly epidemic.
Responding to such criticism late last month, Torosian questioned the credibility of the official Georgian figures and claimed that Armenia has a better anti-epidemic capacity than its neighbor. His claims were denounced by Georgian officials. The minister said afterwards that his remarks were distorted by his Armenian detractors.