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Armenian Health Minister Concerned About Coronavirus Resurgence


Armenia -- Health Minister Anahit Avanesian speaks during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, March 4, 2021.

Health Minister Anahit Avanesian called on Thursday for a renewed strict enforcement of the Armenian government’s sanitary rules, saying that coronavirus infections in the country have increased in recent days after more than three months of steady decline.

According to health authorities, 491 Armenians tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and 360 others on Tuesday, sharply up from the daily number of cases registered by them in February.

“As of yesterday, 491 out of 2,922 [coronavirus] tests came back positive, which indicates a positivity rate of 16 percent,” Avanesian told a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

“While we had a positive rate of 5-7 percent in January and early February, now, as you can see, it stands at 16 percent. According to our projections this figure will increase further next week,” she said, adding that the health authorities have to again set up more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

“We need to revert to mask-wearing and other strict preventive measures,” stressed the minister. She went on to urge relevant state bodies to enforce physical distancing rules in shopping malls, buses, restaurants and resorts.

Wearing a face mask not in all enclosed spaces and outdoors has been mandatory in Armenia since June. The authorities largely stopped fining people not complying with this rule 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. It began steadily falling in mid-November despite a continuing lax enforcement of the anti-epidemic rules.

Few Armenians now wear masks not only on the street but also in shops.

Health experts believe that recent rallies held in Yerevan by both the Armenian opposition and the government have also contributed to the resurgence of coronavirus cases. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and virtually all key members of his team, including former Health Minister Arsen Torosian, did not wear masks during one such rally held on Monday.

Torosian, who is now the chief of Pashinian’s staff, also called for renewed compliance with the sanitary rules on Thursday.

It remained unclear when the authorities will start vaccinating people against COVID-19. They have indicated that they will provide free vaccines to only “high risk” groups of the country’s population.

Health officials said in January that that Armenia will receive the first batch of vaccines before the second half of February. However, Avanesian said on Thursday that negotiations with vaccine suppliers are still going on.

“We hope that we will have the first batch in the course of this spring,” she told Pashinian.

According to the Ministry of Health, 3,208 Armenians have died from COVID-19 so far. The figure does not include the deaths of 820 other people infected with the virus. According to the ministry, those fatalities were primarily caused by other diseases.

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