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Armenian Police Vow Tougher Approach As Coronavirus Cases Spike Amid Karabakh War


Armenia -- A masked police officer patrols streets of Yerevan, July 10, 2020.

Armenia’s police have warned citizens to abide by the mandatory rule of wearing face masks in all public spaces or face fines as the numbers of new coronavirus cases and resulting deaths have soared in recent days amid continuing Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In what appears to be a second and much stronger wave of the pandemic Armenia has been recording more than 2,000 new cases and several dozen deaths a day during the last week or so.

Since the start of the epidemic in March, more than 93,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in a country with a population of about 3 million. According to Armenian health officials, 1,391 of these people have so far died from COVID-19, making it one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world (469 deaths per million).

According to the Health Ministry, hospitals in Armenia are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, with as many as 576 people needing hospitalization currently on the waiting list due to the shortage of hospital beds.

The healthcare situation in Armenia is complicated by an ongoing armed conflict with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh from where hundreds of wounded ethnic Armenian servicemen and scores of civilians have been brought to Armenia for treatment since the hostilities began on September 27.

Government officials and healthcare specialists in Armenia believe that the war situation has largely affected the epidemiological state of affairs as people – servicemen, volunteers, others involved in wartime activities – began to care less about social-distancing and mask-wearing rules, which have been mandatory in Armenia for months and at one point in September admittedly led to a dramatic decrease in the infection rate.

Deputy Chief of Armenia’s Police Ara Fidanian warned citizens on Monday that from now on police officers will pay greater attention to enforcing the anti-epidemic rules by fining those who break them. He acknowledged that in recent weeks Armenian law-enforcement bodies have been more preoccupied with duties emanating from the current martial law regime, issuing much fewer fines for breaking anti-epidemic rules.

“Although we have mainly focused our efforts on ensuring the legal regime of martial law, we are now engaging additional forces, including female police officers, in the fight against the novel coronavirus,” Fidanian said, adding that control will also cover public transport.

Failing to wear a face mask in public spaces in Armenia, including in public transport, may result in a fine of 10,000 drams (about $20) imposed on the offender. Citizens caught breaking the rule may be find an additional 10,000 drams if they have no passport or other ID around them.

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