Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian indicated on Thursday that his government has no plans yet to change its strategy of tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Pashinian said the government will keep putting the emphasis on getting more Armenians to practice social distancing and wear face masks in all public spaces and is ready to take the “strictest administrative measures” for that purpose.
“I want to again emphasize that our anti-epidemic strategy remains the same,” he said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan. “Namely, to learn to live under the kind of rules that will allow us to nullify new [coronavirus] cases or reduce them to a minimum.”
“Dear compatriots, I want to again remind you that there is a coronavirus pandemic in Armenia and the most effective means of fighting that pandemic is to wear masks, maintain social distancing and periodically disinfect hands,” he said.
Armenia has had one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the world, with a total of 30,346 cases confirmed in the country of about 3 million so far. According to the Ministry of Health, 526 people tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
The ministry also reported on Thursday morning the deaths of 20 more people infected with COVID-19. It said COVID-19 was the primary cause of 14 of those deaths.
The official death toll thus rose to 535. The figure does not include 170 other infected people who the ministry says have died from other, pre-existing conditions.
“The situation remains stable but severe,” Health Minister Arsen Torosian said at the cabinet meeting. “That is, there is no negative trend but there is no substantial positive trend either.”
Torosian also announced that the health authorities are planning to set up dozens of more intensive care beds at Armenian hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. They already helped to boost hospital capacity last month in the face of a rising number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
Pashinian warned on Monday that the government will have to impose another nationwide lockdown if the hospitals are no longer able to cope with the continuing influx of patients. The prime minister did not mention such a possibility on Thursday. He spoke instead of a possible “further toughening” of fines and other sanctions against people refusing to wear masks.
“We should manage to ensure compliance with the anti-epidemic rules, including through the strictest administrative measures,” he said.
Opposition leaders and other critics of Pashinian’s government increasingly criticize its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The two opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament initiated last week the formation of an ad hoc parliamentary commission tasked with investigating the government’s coronavirus response. Torosian insisted afterwards that the government has done a good job dealing with the pandemic.