The Armenian health authorities reported on Wednesday another decrease in the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths caused by them.
The Ministry of Health said in the morning that 308 people have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, down from an average of 550-600 single-day infections registered in the first half of July. They brought to 37,937 the total number of confirmed cases in Armenia.
The ministry recorded more than 730 cases a day at one point in late June. This might explain a subsequent rise in coronavirus-related deaths.
Around 15 fatalities a day were reported from July 6 through the end of last week. Significantly fewer people infected with COVID-19 have died in recent days, according to the Ministry of Health.
The ministry said on Wednesday that six people infected with COVID-19 have died in the past day. It said the virus was the primary cause of four of those deaths.
Armenia’s official death toll from the pandemic thus rose to 723. The health authorities say 225 other infected people have died from other, pre-existing diseases.
Government data also shows that less than 17 percent of the latest coronavirus tests carried out across the country of 3 million came back positive.
The positive test rate hovered between 20 percent and 25 percent in previous days. It averaged around 30 percent throughout June and early July.
The Ministry of Health spokeswoman, Alina Nikoghosian, described the latest figures as further proof of a continuing fall in the country’s infection rates. She attributed it to an increased number of Armenians wearing mandatory face masks in all public spaces and following other anti-epidemic rules set by the government.
“We have been more vigilant during the last few months,” Nikoghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I hope that this pace [of improvement] will continue.”
Nikoghosian emphasized the fact that for several consecutive the daily number of people recovering from COVID-19 has exceeded that of new infections. But she cautioned that so far there has been no sizable drop in the number of COVID-19 patients that are in a severe or critical condition.
The deputy director of the Surb Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, Armenia’s largest hospital treating such patients, also spoke of an improving epidemiological situation. “I can say for certain that the number of deaths will fall further in the coming weeks given the decrease in severe cases,” said Petros Manukian.
Manukian said that around one-fifth of intensive-care beds at his hospital are currently vacant. As recently as on July 13, Health Minister Arsen Torosian noted a continuing lack of such beds at the Surb Grigor Lusavorich and other Armenian hospitals dealing with the coronavirus.
Opposition groups have for months decried the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying that Armenia has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Torosian and other government officials have dismissed the criticism.
Ever since controversially lifting nationwide lockdown restrictions in early May, the government has put the emphasis of getting Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks and follow other safety rules. It says that this strategy is working.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian told the Armenian parliament on July 14 that the government hopes to cut the daily number of new cases to roughly 140 by the beginning of September. He said this would allow the government to reopen the country’s schools shut down by it in March.