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Armenian Government Concerned About Coronavirus Resurgence


Armenia - People wear mandatory face masks in Yerevan, August 12, 2020

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to again step up the enforcement of safety and hygiene rules on Thursday in response to a resurgence in coronavirus infections in Armenia which began about two weeks ago.

Pashinian expressed concern over the “worsening of the situation” after the Armenian health authorities said that 374 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of new cases recorded since the beginning of August.

The Ministry of Health registered between 239 and 295 cases a day last week, up from an average of roughly 150 cases reported earlier in September. The number of cases had declined steadily and significantly since the first half of July.

The resurgence is not as sharp as it may seem given a near doubling of the daily number of coronavirus tests carried out across Armenia over the last two weeks. Even so, there has been an increase in the percentage of positive test results.

“Our position remains the same: we have to live with the coronavirus and a lot depends here on the individual responsibility of each of us,” Pashinian said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

“Of course, administrative methods must also be applied very strictly, and we have agreed that inspecting bodies and the police will step up their oversight of compliance with the rules,” he said.

Wearing face masks in all public spaces -- both indoors and outdoors -- has been mandatory in Armenia since June. The government kept this and social distancing restrictions, mostly applicable to businesses, in place when it lifted a coronavirus-related state of emergency on September 11.

Armenia -- A teacher pours disinfecant onto the hands of a student entering a private school in Yerevan, September 1, 2020.
Armenia -- A teacher pours disinfecant onto the hands of a student entering a private school in Yerevan, September 1, 2020.

Health Minister Arsen Torosian said on Thursday that the renewed rise in coronavirus cases began right after September 11. Torosian blamed it on the increased mobility and complacency of the population. He warned that the reopening on September 15 of Armenian schools and universities could accelerate the upward trend.

“We do not yet attribute these [higher] figures to the schools because the schools were reopened ten days ago,” Torosian told Pashinian and fellow cabinet members. “But if there is a more drastic increase within the next week we will link that to the schools.”

“We are not just talking about transmission [of the disease] inside schools,” he went on. “The schools and other educational establishments are one of the most important factors behind our population’s mobility.”

Armenia -- A COVID-19 patient and a medic at the intensive care unit of Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital, Yerevan, May 10, 2020. (A photo by the Armenian Mnistry of Health)
Armenia -- A COVID-19 patient and a medic at the intensive care unit of Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital, Yerevan, May 10, 2020. (A photo by the Armenian Mnistry of Health)

The minister also assured Pashinian that about one-third of some 1,400 hospital beds currently set aside for COVID-19 patients remain vacant. He said the number of such beds can be quickly doubled if need be.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 3,748 active coronavirus cases in Armenia as of Thursday morning. Torosian’s remarks suggest that fewer than 1,000 infected persons were hospitalized.

Two dozen Armenian hospitals dealt with COVID-19 at the height of the coronavirus crisis in June and early July. Only eight of them have COVID-19 patients at present.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country of about 3 million stands at 48,251. The authorities have also reported so far the deaths of 1,237 people infected with the disease.

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