YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s police have warned citizens to abide by the mandatory rule of wearing face masks in all public spaces or face fines as the numbers of new coronavirus cases and resulting deaths have soared in recent days amid continuing Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In what appears to be a second and much stronger wave of the pandemic Armenia has been recording more than 2,000 new cases and several dozen deaths a day during the last week or so.
Since the start of the epidemic in March, more than 93,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in a country with a population of about 3 million. According to Armenian health officials, 1,391 of these people have so far died from COVID-19, making it one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world (469 deaths per million).
According to the Health Ministry, hospitals in Armenia are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, with as many as 576 people needing hospitalization currently on the waiting list due to the shortage of hospital beds.
The healthcare situation in Armenia is complicated by an ongoing armed conflict with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh from where hundreds of wounded ethnic Armenian servicemen and scores of civilians have been brought to Armenia for treatment since the hostilities began on September 27.
Government officials and healthcare specialists in Armenia believe that the war situation has largely affected the epidemiological state of affairs as people — servicemen, volunteers, others involved in wartime activities — began to care less about social-distancing and mask-wearing rules, which have been mandatory in Armenia for months and at one point in September admittedly led to a dramatic decrease in the infection rate.