The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern over a “very significant” increase in coronavirus infections in Armenia and 10 other countries in Europe and the former Soviet Union.
“For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures,” said Hans Henri Kluge, a WHO regional director. “In several countries across [wider] Europe, this risk has now become a reality – 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks.”
“In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe,” Kluge told a virtual news conference in Copenhagen on Thursday.
The WHO said afterwards that those countries include Armenia, Sweden, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo.
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported 759 new COVID-19 infections on Friday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the South Caucasus country of about 3 million to 23,247.
The ministry also said that 13 more people died from the respiratory disease in the past day. The official death toll from the epidemic thus rose to 410.
The figure does not include the deaths of 131 other people infected with the virus. Those deaths were caused by other, pre-existing conditions, according to the health authorities in Yerevan.
Kluge praised European Union member states such as Poland, Germany and Spain for reacting to dangerous local outbreaks with “rapid and targeted interventions.” He did not say whether he believes the 11 other countries mentioned by him should re-impose lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Another senior WHO official, Michel Thieren, visited Yerevan and met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian earlier this week. Pashinian’s office quoted Thieren as saying that people in Armenia and other countries “should get used to living” with the coronavirus and following safety rules set by the authorities.
The Armenian government issued stay-at-home orders and shut down schools, universities and most nonessential businesses in late March shortly after recording the first COVID-19 cases. But it began easing those restrictions already in mid-April and all but lifted the lockdown by the beginning of May. The number of coronavirus cases has risen substantially since then.
Pashinian has repeatedly indicated that his government has no plans to impose another lockdown and will continue instead to put the emphasis on getting more Armenians to practice social distancing and wear face masks in public.