The Armenian government said on Thursday that it hopes to further curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country through more targeted and proactive testing.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Health Minister Arsen Torosian noted that new coronavirus cases have decreased considerably in recent weeks not only in absolute terms but also as a proportion of nationwide coronavirus tests.
Pashinian said around 15 percent of daily tests carried out over the past week came back positive, compared with 25-30 percent registered in June and the first half of July.
“While the influx [of infected people] was previously strong and we basically waited for people to apply [to hospitals and policlinics,] we are changing our tactic and the Ministry of Health will now be more proactive and we will carry out testing in some high-risk places at our own initiative,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting.
Torosian specified that the health authorities will target people working in the same government agencies, supermarkets, factories, banks or other businesses as well as patients of various medical and elderly care institutions.
“That is, if one of them tests positive we no longer wait for others to show symptoms. We test everyone and quickly detect [infections,]” explained the minister. He said this should help the health authorities to cut the proportion of positive test results to below 10 percent.
The authorities have carried out roughly 2,000 tests a day since the end of May. Critics have for months urged them to significantly expand COVID-19 testing, saying that is vital for tackling the pandemic in the virtual absence of lockdown restrictions in the country of about 3 million.
Pashinian’s government has put the emphasis of getting Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public and follow other anti-epidemic rules. Government officials say that this strategy is working. They point to the significant drop in daily infections registered by the Ministry of Health.
The ministry reported in the morning that 233 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, down from 288 cases confirmed the day before and an average of 550-600 cases a day registered in the first half of July.
The ministry also reported two more deaths caused by COVID-19. They brought the official death toll to 772.
Pashinian cautioned on Thursday that Armenia’s infection rates are still “high.” He said that people’s and businesses’ continued compliance with the safety rules will be critical for reducing them further. The premier again stressed the importance of wearing face masks in all public and enclosed spaces.