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Armenian Schools Again Closed Amid Coronavirus Spike


Armenia -- A teacher measures a first grader's temperature at the entrance to a school in Yerevan, September 14, 2020.

Schools and universities across Armenia were again temporarily shut down on Thursday due to a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the country.

A resurgence in officially registered COVID-19 cases began in mid-September and accelerated after the outbreak on September 27 of a war in Nagorno-Karabakh which led the Armenian government to declare martial law.

The Armenian Ministry of Health has reported record-high higher numbers of new cases in recent days. It said on Thursday morning that as many as 1,371 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past day alone, up from about 850 single-day cases recorded during the previous peak of the epidemic in late June.

Gayane Sahakian, the deputy director of the ministry’s National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the health authorities now have to again increase Armenia’s hospital capacity to cope with the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that around 1,600 infected people are currently treated in hospitals. The total number of active coronavirus cases in the country of about 3 million surpassed 11,500 on Thursday.

The number of new cases averaged roughly 150 in early September. The government reopened schools, universities and other educational establishments on September 15.

Commenting on the reasons for the drastic increase in cases, Sahakian singled out the war in Karabakh which she said has completely overshadowed the coronavirus pandemic. She said that many Armenians have stopped wearing masks and following other safety rules set by the government.

Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian said on Wednesday that the country’s secondary and high schools as well as kindergartens will be closed for what he described as a two-week autumn holiday. As for the universities and vocational training colleges, he said they will switch back to online courses on Thursday.

Sahakian said that over the past month there have been major outbreaks of COVID-19 in many schools. The official revealed that 72 of them were shut down and ordered to revert to distance learning even before the government’s decision announced by Harutiunian.

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