Health Minister Arsen Torosian denied on Tuesday press reports about his resignation after being allowed to take a three-week vacation despite the continuing coronavirus crisis in Armenia.
According to an executive order signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Torosian will be on vacation from August 31 to September 19.
The order coincided with newspaper reports saying that Torosian has tendered his resignation. He deactivated his private and official Facebook accounts, followed by tens of thousands of Armenians, at the weekend for unclear reasons.
A spokeswoman for Torosian, Alina Nikoghosian, dismissed the resignation claims. She also insisted that the 38-year-old minister’s vacation had been “planned” beforehand.
“The minister did not submit and is not going to submit a resignation request to the prime minister,” Nikoghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The Yerevan daily “Zhoghovurd” also reported on Tuesday that a task force coordinating the Armenian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has demanded a detailed financial report from Torosian.
The Armenian Ministry of Health did not confirm or refute the information. Still, the ministry issued a statement saying that since March the health authorities have spent a total of around 10 billion drams ($21 million) on treatment of COVID-19 patients and other measures against the disease.
Armenia has had one of the highest infection rates in the wider region, with nearly 43,000 coronavirus cases and at least 858 deaths recorded in the country of about 3 million so far.
Both Torosian and Pashinian have repeatedly defended the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis strongly criticized by Armenian opposition groups. They have argued, in particular, that the daily number of new confirmed cases has shrunk by more than half since mid-July despite the virtual absence of lockdown restrictions in the country.
Citing the downward trend, the government decided earlier this month to reopen all schools and universities on September 15.
The Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday morning 111 new infections and the deaths of 8 more people infected with COVID-19.