Health authorities in Armenia pledged on Monday to sharply increase the number of coronavirus tests as part of their ongoing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The authorities have carried out an average of more than 2,000 tests a day for the past month.
“Efforts are underway to increase the number of tests to about 3,000-4,000,” said Alina Nikoghosian, the spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Health. “That will lead to the detection of more coronavirus and pneumonia cases.”
According to the ministry, the total number of tests carried out in Armenia since the start of the coronavirus pandemic reached 147,108 on Sunday. Nearly 35,000 infections were detected as a result.
Critics have for months urged the government to significantly expand coronavirus testing, saying that is vital for tackling the pandemic in the virtual absence of lockdown restrictions in the country of about 3 million.
The government has put the emphasis of getting Armenians to practice social distancing, wear mandatory face masks in public and follow other anti-epidemic rules. Government officials insisted last week that this strategy is working.
They argued that the daily number of COVID-19 cases has averaged between 500 and 600 in the last few weeks after growing steadily since mid-April. Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian said it is projected to shrink by more than half by early September.
Nikoghosian likewise spoke of a decreased number of infected people requiring hospitalization. The authorities therefore do not need to set up more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, she said.
“Until recently we discharged 20-25 people a day and as many hospital beds were immediately occupied by new patients,” said Karen Poghosian, the deputy director of one of the Yerevan hospitals treating such patients. “But now 8 to 10 beds remain vacant. This suggests that the overall number of infected people who need hospitalization has fallen.”
“So we too see a downward trend,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We hope that it continues and we successfully complete our mission.”
So far there has been no noticeable drop in Armenia’s coronavirus mortality rate. The Ministry of Health reported on Monday morning that that 13 more people infected with the virus died in the past day. The ministry said COVID-19 was the primary cause of 9 of those deaths.
The official death toll thus rose to 650. The figure does not include the deaths of 209 other infected people which the ministry says were caused by other, pre-existing illnesses.