The order, effective from Tuesday, requires all universities and colleges to offer their students only distance courses until November 15. It also means that a one-week autumn break in Armenia’s primary, secondary high schools, which began on Monday, will be extended until November 7.
The Armenian educational institutions will thus be effectively closed for the first time since October 2020. The authorities began reopening them in December after coronavirus cases peaked during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The authorities have reported similarly large numbers of cases and resulting deaths in recent weeks. According to the Ministry of Health, over 13,000 people in the country of about 3 million have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 250 of them have died in the past week. Forty-two of those deaths were recorded on Sunday.
Health Minister Anahit Avanesian warned that Armenian hospitals are “on the verge” of running out of vacant beds for COVID-19 patients.
Her ministry already reported a shortage of beds more than a week ago. It said hundreds of infected people in need of urgent care are awaiting hospitalization because of that.
In a Facebook post, Avanesian urged Armenians to “put on masks everywhere” and get vaccinated.
The minister faced criticism on social media on Monday after it emerged that she and other senior government officials did not wear masks during an indoor reception hosted by President Armen Sarkissian and attended by more than 100 people.
Most ordinary Armenians also do not wear mandatory masks indoors, including in overcrowded public buses. Authorities essentially stopped fining them more than a year ago.
Also, Armenia continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the region. Ministry of Health data shows that 466,785 people received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and only about 210,250 of them were fully vaccinated as of October 24.
Vaccinations have accelerated over the past month after the authorities began requiring all public and private sector employees to get inoculated or take coronavirus tests twice a month at their own expense.