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Armenian Government Extends Coronavirus Restrictions


Armenia -- People wear faces masks on a street in Yerevan, August 11, 2020.

The government on Monday extended by six months most of its restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in Armenia.

But it scrapped some rules in an apparent response to concerns voiced by Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian and Armenian businesspeople.

The government has continued to require people wear face masks in all public areas and kept in place social distancing and hygiene rules set for businesses even after lifting a coronavirus-related state of emergency and introducing a nationwide “quarantine” regime in September.

The less stringent regime was due to expire on Monday. The Ministry of Health asked the government late last month to extend it until July 11, citing the continuing large number of coronavirus cases in Armenia.

Kerobian criticized the request last week, saying that the restrictions would hurt the Armenian economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Some business associations as well as dozens of private firms echoed his concerns.

The government sided with the Ministry of Health while making what appear to be concessions to the critics. In particular, it lifted restrictions on indoor and outdoor festive events. Those include a ban on restaurant parties attended by more than 60 people.

The government also allowed foreign nationals to enter Armenia through its land border crossings and not just by air. But those travellers will have to produce documents showing that they tested negative for the coronavirus up to three days ago or to self-isolate and take such tests in Armenia.

The Armenian authorities largely stopped fining people and businesses to enforce the anti-epidemic rules following the September 27 outbreak of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The daily number of new COVID-19 cases reported by them grew rapidly as a result. But it has been steadily falling since mid-November.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 8,782 active cases in Armenia as of Monday morning, sharply down from 22,850 cases reported on December 1.

More than 162,000 coronavirus infections and at least 2,931 deaths caused by them have been officially confirmed in the country of about 3 million to date. The real number of cases is believed to be much higher.

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