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Health Minister Defends Armenian Government’s Coronavirus Response


Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian gives a press conference, Yerevan, April 10, 2020.

The Armenian government has done a good job tackling the coronavirus pandemic and is not solely responsible for the large number of infections in Armenia, Health Minister Arsen Torosian insisted on Friday.

“My political evaluation is that considering its resources and situation, Armenia has dealt with this global challenge quite well,” Torosian told reporters.

“All coronavirus patients in Armenia receive adequate medical care, which has not been the case in many more developed countries,” he said. “In that sense, the government efforts are more than appropriate and sensible.

“As for the [infection] numbers -- which unfortunately do not decline but are registered in gatherings like this, rather than in medical institutions -- they depend not only on the government’s steps but also on the behavior of all of us.”

“I can also say that we don’t have an explosive situation,” Torosian went on. “According to all projections, we should have had more than 30,000 cases by now but actually have only 27,000 cases. So we are managing to contain the spread [of the disease] to a certain extent and seem to have flattened the curve since mid-June.”

The Armenian Ministry of Health said earlier in the day that 662 more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The total number of coronavirus cases registered in the country of about 3 million thus rose to 27,320.

The ministry also reported 10 more deaths caused by COVID-19, bringing Armenia’s official death toll to 469. According to it, 156 other people infected with the virus have died primarily because of other, pre-existing diseases.

ARMENIA -- A medical worker drinks water at the yard of the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Centre in Yerevan, June 9, 2020
ARMENIA -- A medical worker drinks water at the yard of the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Centre in Yerevan, June 9, 2020

The official figures show that Armenia has one of the highest infection rates in the world. In terms of the number of cases per million people, it is well ahead of countries like Britain, Italy and France that have been hit very hard by the pandemic. At the same time, the South Caucasus state still has a much lower COVID-19 mortality rate.

Opposition leaders and other critics of the Armenian government increasingly criticize its handling of the coronavirus crisis. They often cite the example of neighboring Georgia where the health authorities have recorded only 943 cases and 15 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The two opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament initiated on Thursday the formation of an ad hoc parliamentary commission tasked with investigating the government’s coronavirus response. With senior deputies from the ruling My Step bloc criticizing the initiative, it is not clear whether the parliament’s pro-government majority will agree to such an inquiry.

“I am ready to answer all questions,” Torosian said when asked to comment on the commission.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian again indicated his opposition to re-imposing a nationwide lockdown. Pashinian said the government will continue to put the emphasis on getting more Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public and follow other safety rules, and minimizing the country’s “economic losses.” He admitted that this strategy has not been a success so far.

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