About 790,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 3,300 people have died of COVID-19 in Armenia since the start of the pandemic last March. The number of active cases today is nearly 10,000.
Armenia’s Health Ministry said on March 18 that 19 people died from the infection within the past 24 hours, while the number of new identified cases was over 1,000.
This is about the same rate that Armenia last had in fall when the so-called second wave of the pandemic was observed globally.
Now healthcare specialists in Armenia believe the country is experiencing a “third wave” of the pandemic.
Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said that 12 medical centers are currently involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Armenia and new hospital beds are being added.
“But you know that this is not an unlimited resource, and we need to exercise caution,” the minister warned.
The rise in the infection rate in Armenia may also reflect the latest mass political events taking place in the country as both the government and the opposition have been holding large-scale rallies in recent weeks.
Armenia’s Health Ministry sees no need for a new lockdown at the moment, but warns that mandatory mask wearing and social distancing rules must be followed by the public to curb and reduce the rate of infections.
Avanesian said that while limited vaccination with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine focused on high-risk groups, including medical workers, is currently under way in Armenia, the government continues negotiations on acquiring a vaccine developed by British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
The minister said that final decisions will be made on the basis of conclusions of professional international organizations.
Several European countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine due to reported negative side effects, including fears it may have caused some recipients to develop blood clots.
When asked whether this was not a reason for Armenia to suspend talks on the acquisition of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, Avanesian said: “This, of course, is a signal to be vigilant, to keep abreast of the latest news and take action accordingly.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on March 18 said the vaccine is "safe and effective" and not associated with a higher blood clot risk, prompting most European countries to lift the suspensions.