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Fewer COVID-19 Cases Ease Burden On Armenian Hospitals


ARMENIA -- A medical worker wearing protective equipment moves a patient into the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Centre in Yerevan, June 9, 2020

A drop in coronavirus infections recorded in recent weeks has reduced the burden on Armenia’s hospitals struggling to cope with the pandemic, Health Minister Arsen Torosian said on Thursday.

“The strain on hospital capacity is now more bearable,” Torosian said at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan. “Since yesterday we have had no [infected] citizens who are in a serious condition and whom we are unable to hospitalize. We are now hospitalizing all of them.”

“We hope that this situation will persist at least for the next few weeks, of course with the help of our population, because compliance with [coronavirus safety] rules is very important,” he added.

Armenia’s daily number of new cases began soaring in early September after stabilizing and declining during the summer. The situation worsened further with the outbreak of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27.

The fighting overshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a widespread noncompliance with mandatory mask-wearing and other safety rules and their lax enforcement by the authorities. Also, Armenian hospitals had to treat thousands of wounded soldiers in addition to a growing number of COVID-19 patients.

The Armenian Ministry of Health routinely reported more than 2,000 cases a day in late October and the first half of November. The rapid spread of the disease overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, resulting in a shortage of hospital beds and hundreds of patients awaiting hospitalization.

The daily number of new cases averaged roughly 1,500 last week and earlier this week.

The Ministry of Health said on Thursday morning that 1,785 Armenians have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. As much as 40 percent of coronavirus tests carried out in the same period came back negative.

Ministry data shows at the same time that more Armenian continued to recover from COVID-19 than to test positive for it. The official number of active coronavirus cases in the country of about 3 million stood at 25,228 in the morning, down from 29,131 cases registered as of Monday.

Reacting to Torosian’s comments and the official figures, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian expressed hope that Armenia has passed the peak of the second wave of coronavirus infections. He cautioned, though, that the pandemic is “unpredictable” and “nothing can be ruled out.”

Opposition politicians and other critics have for months accused Pashinian’s government of mishandling the pandemic. In particular, they hold it responsible for the deaths of at least 2,587 people infected with the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health reported 34 of those deaths on Thursday.

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