A team of French medics has arrived in Armenia to help Armenian colleagues increasingly struggling to cope with the coronavirus crisis.
The seven doctors were greeted by Armenia’s Diaspora High Commissioner Zareh Sinanyan, Deputy Health Minister Anahit Avanesian and the French and U.S. ambassadors in Yerevan when they arrived at Zvartnots airport late on Sunday.
Sinanyan’s office said it has organized the emergency mission “in close collaboration” with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“The doctors who had already undertaken the COVID-19 fight in France are in Armenia for the first time and will invest all their experience and knowledge in this crucial mission to save human lives,” it said in a statement.
According to French Ambassador Jonathan Lacote, they will stay in Armenia for 10 days.
“I want to thank all our partners for organizing their mission,” Health Minister Arsen Torosian said on Monday. “It will be really useful for us.”
In a Facebook post, Torosian also said that the French medics have already “gotten down to work” at the intensive care units of three Yerevan-based hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Torosian confirmed that a similar medical team from Lithuania will arrive in Armenia in the coming days. The decision to send it was made by the Lithuanian government.
Torosian revealed that about 50 Russian doctors have also expressed a desire to work at the Armenian hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic. He gave no dates for their arrival.
The minister made no mention of similar assistance that was offered by neighboring Georgia. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said on Thursday that his government is discussing details of the proposed aid with the Armenian side.
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 said 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 minister insisted on June 11 that Armenian hospitals are still able to give life-saving treatment to all patients that are in a serious condition.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases registered in the country of about 3 million continued to grow rapidly over the weekend. The Armenian Ministry of Health said on Monday that they rose by 397 to 17,064 in the past day.
The ministry also reported the deaths of 19 more people infected with the disease. It said 16 of those deaths were primarily caused by the coronavirus. They were added to the official COVID-19 death toll which rose to 285.
According to the health authorities, 94 other infected people have died as a result of other, pre-existing diseases. Three of these fatalities were recorded on Sunday.
The number of new COVID-19 infections hit a new daily high of 723 on Friday.
“With regard to the coronavirus we are not doing well,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian admitted on Saturday morning. He again complained that many Armenians are not practicing social distancing, wearing face masks in public and taking other precautions recommended by the authorities.
The Armenian government cited the high infection rates last week when it extended a coronavirus-related state of emergency in the country by another month, until July 13.
The state of emergency was declared on March 16. A few days later, the government issued stay-at-home orders and banned most types of business activity. It began relaxing those restrictions already in mid-April and lifted virtually all of them by May 10 despite the growing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Critics say that the government never properly enforced the lockdown and lifted it too soon. Some of them have called for a renewed lockdown. Pashinian and other senior government officials have opposed such a measure so far.