A medical worker wearing protective gear is seen outside the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center in Yerevan on June 9, 2020

Government Extends State of Emergency as COVID-19 Cases Soar

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian authorities will double the number of special teams enforcing safety rules meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on June 16.

Pashinyan said police officers will be joined by representatives of other state bodies in ensuring that Armenians wear face masks, practice social distancing and take other precautions against COVID-19.

“This will allow us to double the number of enforcement groups,” he said at a daily COVID-19 news briefing.

Early this month, the Armenian government made it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask, not only in all enclosed spaces but also in the streets and all other public areas. Police say that thousands of citizens have since been fined 10,000 drams ($21) for failing to comply with this requirement which the government says is essential for tackling the epidemic.

Pashinyan announced that starting Wednesday, June 17, Armenians will also have to carry passports or other IDs when leaving their homes. Failure to do so will be punishable by separate 10,000-dram fines, he said, adding that the measure will facilitate the enforcement of the mask requirement.

The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on June 16 morning 425 new infections, bringing to 17,489 the total number of coronavirus cases in the country of about 3 million.

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The ministry also said that 8 more people had died from the disease in the past 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 295. The figure does not include the deaths of 96 other infected people. These fatalities were primarily caused by other, pre-existing diseases, according to the health authorities.

The ministry spokeswoman, Alina Nikoghosyan, put the number of active cases at over 10,500. Nikoghosyan said only around 2,500 of these patients are now receiving treatment in hospitals. The others remain confined at home and monitored by primary healthcare workers, she said.

Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said on Monday that 231 infected persons in need of urgent treatment are now waiting to be hospitalized.

The government pledged last week to set up 350 new hospital beds to cope with the growing number of patients. Torosyan cautioned that increasing hospital capacity alone will not address the problem. He stressed the importance of lowering infection rates.

The minister was also concerned about the fact that 470 patients were in a serious and 116 others in a critical condition as of Monday afternoon.

“The number is quite large,” he said. “Unfortunately the majority of the citizens in a critical condition … are at serious risk of dying. But doctors are doing everything to prevent that happening.”

Topics: COVID-19

Citing the continuing spread of the coronavirus in Armenia, the government on Friday extended by another month a state of emergency which it declared in March to combat the epidemic.

A few days after declaring the state of emergency on March 16, the government issued stay-at-home orders and banned most types of business activity. It began relaxing those restrictions already in mid-April and lifted virtually all of them by May 10 despite the growing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths reported by the Armenian health authorities on a daily basis.

Critics say that the government never properly enforced the lockdown and lifted it too soon. Some of them have called for a renewed and tougher lockdown.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan indicated his continuing opposition to such a measure when he spoke at a cabinet meeting that approved extending the state of emergency until July 13. He said the authorities will instead continue to encourage Armenians to practice social distancing, wear face masks and follow other safety rules.

Earlier this month the government made it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask in all public areas.

Speaking in the Armenian parliament later in the day, Pashinyan made clear that emergency rule will remain in place until the authorities achieve a significant drop in infection rates. He said the daily number of new COVID-19 cases should fall below 150.

 

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