The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday that 108 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, sharply down from an average of 550-600 cases a day registered in the first half of July and roughly 250 daily cases recorded in early August.
The ministry said 471 other patients have recovered from the disease, reducing to 3,182 the total number of active cases in the country of about 3 million. The number stood at over 7,700 a month ago.
The ministry data also shows that less than 6 percent of coronavirus tests carried out in the last two days came back positive. The positive test rate hovered between 20 percent and 25 percent in late July and has fallen steadily since then.
“If compare the number of tests, newly detected cases and recoveries in the past week or ten days we can say that the downward trend is holding steady,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, Lilit Babakhanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The trend has allowed the health authorities to reduce the number of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. There were two dozen such hospitals across Armenia at the height of the coronavirus crisis early this summer. According to Babakhanian, only eight of them are continuing to deal with the pandemic now.
The country’s infection rates have been falling despite the lifting in early May of the vast majority of government restrictions on people’s movements and business activity. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government has since put the emphasis of getting Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks and follow other anti-epidemic rules. Mask-wearing has been mandatory in all public areas since June.
The government decided late last month to lift virtually all remaining restrictions. It went on to introduce strict safety protocols for Armenian schools and universities that are due reopen on September 15.
Despite the improving epidemiological situation opposition figures and other critics continue to accuse the government of mishandling the coronavirus crisis. They argue that with almost 45,000 coronavirus cases recorded to date Armenia has had one of the highest infection rates in the world. Critics also point to the deaths of at least 1,179 Armenians infected with the disease.
The health authorities say that COVID-19 was the primary cause of 903 of those deaths. The 276 other infected people have died from other, pre-existing conditions, according to them.
Pashinian, Health Minister Arsen Torosian and other government officials dismiss the opposition criticism. In particular, Torosian has argued that Armenia’s COVID-19 mortality rate is significantly lower than that of many Western nations that spend a lot more on healthcare.