Tuesday, More Armenians Released From Coronavirus Quarantine Armenia -- An ambulance leaves the Nork Infectious Disease Hospital, Yerevan, March 20, 2020. Fourteen people in Armenia have recovered from coronavirus and dozens of others have been released from quarantine, Health Minister Arsen Torosian announced late on Tuesday. In a Facebook post, Torosian said 12 of the patients never showed any coronavirus symptoms and did not require hospitalization while the two others were cured at Yerevan’s Nork hospital specializing in treatment of infectious diseases. “Another two citizens treated at the Nork hospital have tested negative for the virus, and if they test negative again tomorrow they too will be discharged,” he wrote shortly after the number of registered coronavirus cases in Armenia rose by 14 to 249. Torosian added that as of Tuesday evening a total of 88 Armenians were released from confinement after their coronavirus tests came back negative. He said 37 of them were isolated at home while the others were quarantined for 14 days in state-owned hotels and other facilities. Armenia -- President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian (L) meets with Minister of Health Arsen Torosian, 20Mar2020. The first group of quarantined Armenians was released last week. They came into contact with an infected man who returned to Armenia from neighboring Iran at the end of February. Shortly before Torosian’s update, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reported that 868 people remain in quarantine and more than 2,400 others in home isolation. Pashinian released these figures as he announced stringent restrictions on people’s movement imposed by his government. Pashinian revealed that a 77-year-old Armenian infected with the COVID-19 virus is in an “extremely grave” condition. Doctors regard as “grave” the condition of four other coronavirus patients, he said. Armenian health authorities reported no coronavirus deaths as of Tuesday night. Most of the infected Armenians are treated at the Nork hospital, which is now being expanded amid a continuing increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country. Torosian wrote earlier in the day that the authorities will soon bring online around 670 new hospital beds at Nork and three other hospitals to deal with the unprecedented pandemic. The minister also said that the hospitals now have 41 lung ventilators and that the authorities are scrambling to acquire more such devices. Nationwide Lockdown Imposed In Armenia Armenia -- People wear face masks at a bus stop in Yerevan, March 17, 2020. The Armenian government stepped up on Tuesday its efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, saying that people in Armenia will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food, receive medical care or exercise. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced the nationwide lockdown in the evening as the number of officially registered coronavirus cases in the country rose by 14 to 249. He said one of the persons infected with the COVID-19 virus, a 77-year-old man, is in “extremely grave” and four others in “grave” condition. In Pashinian’s words, 868 Armenians remained in quarantine and more than 2,400 others in self-isolation. He said 37 other people were released from a two-week quarantine on Tuesday after testing negative for coronavirus. The premier also announced that four more patients recovered from the virus and were discharged from hospital on Tuesday. Two others were reportedly cured of the disease last week. “This [lockdown] means that the work of thousands of enterprises will be halted and only vitally necessary entities will be allowed to operate,” Pashinian said in a televised address to the nation. “Our fellow citizens taking to the streets will have to clearly explain where they are going and those explanations must fit into the logic of people’s vital movements.” “I want to apologize to all of your for these restrictions and inconvenience,” he said. “But I hope it is obvious to all of you that this is done for your safety and the safety of our parents and grandparents: pillars of our national self-consciousness.” Earlier in the day, a government task force enforcing a coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia announced a de facto partial closure of virtually all state agencies. It said only a limited number of their employees will be allowed to go to work. Acting on Pashinian’s earlier decision announced overnight, the government also ordered the temporary closure of all cafes and restaurants as well as most businesses in the country. In his latest address, Pashinian urged Armenians to use, if possible, online services provided by state and private entities. He also stressed that food stores, pharmacies and bank offices will remain open and that no restrictions will be placed on agricultural work. “We are overcoming coronavirus step by step … Rest assured that we will defeat this evil,” concluded Pashinian. Arrest Warrant Issued For Former Armenian Minister Armenia -- Mayor Gagik Beglarian attends public celebrations in Yerevan, October 9, 2010. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) moved on Tuesday to arrest Gagik Beglarian, a controversial former government minister and Yerevan mayor, after bringing corruption charges against him. In a statement, the NSS claimed that Beglarian illegally privatized a kindergarten building in central Yerevan when he ran the Armenian capital from 2009-2011. Beglarian paid only 24 million drams ($51,000) to buy the kindergarten, the statement said, adding that the market value of the 200-square-meter property was almost ten times higher. The statement also said that although a Yerevan court has allowed investigators to arrest Beglarian, the latter is not in Armenia at the moment. The NSS will try to track him down and seek his extradition, it said. The security service did not shed more light on the once influential ex-minister’s whereabouts. A former senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the 56-year-old Beglarian is no stranger to controversy. He was forced to resign as Yerevan mayor in December 2010 after reportedly assaulting an official from the presidential administration’s protocol unit. The official, Aram Kandayan, incurred Beglarian’s ire after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to Sarkisian during an opera concert in Yerevan. Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian speaks at the inauguration of Yerevan's new mayor, Gagik Beglarian, on 11Jun2009 Beglarian and his bodyguards reportedly kidnapped and beat up Kandayan afterwards. Beglarian was never prosecuted for what a presidential spokesman condemned as an “unacceptable and intolerable” behavior. He was on the contrary appointed as transport minister in June 2012. He held that post for four years. Beglarian, who is better known as “Black Gago,” used to hold sway in a central Yerevan neighborhood notorious for election-related violence against opposition activists. Opposition groups for years accused him of leading a local clan that rigged elections and bullied the government’s political opponents. Beglarian and the former ruling HHK always denied those allegations. Critics of Armenia’s former leadership also claimed that individuals like Beglarian enjoy de facto impunity because Sarkisian heavily relies on them to stay in power. Sarkisian, his two brothers as well as some of his current and former political allies have been prosecuted for alleged corruption since the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia. The ex-president rejects embezzlement charges leveled against him as politically motivated. Armenian Government To Order More Closures As Coronavirus Cases Rise Armenia -- Medical workers are seen outside the Nork hospital in Yerevan where coronavirus patients are treated, March 20, 2020. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Monday night that his government will order the closure of all cafes, restaurants and most other businesses due to a continuing spread of coronavirus in Armenia. Pashinian made the announcement as the number of officially registered coronavirus cases in the country rose by 41 to 235. He described as “worrying” the fact that some of the new infections were detected at two manufacturing facilities located in Yerevan and central Kotayk province. Dozens of people working at another Yerevan factory reportedly contracted the virus earlier this month. According to Armenian officials, a visitor from Italy was the primary source of those infections. “In these circumstances, we have to take more restrictive measures in order to be able to stop the further spread of the virus,” Pashinian said in a Facebook video appeal aired shortly after midnight. For that purpose, he said, the government will close all cafes, restaurants and most other private enterprises for at least one week. A government body enforcing the coronavirus-related state of emergency in Armenia will release a list of those enterprises on Tuesday, he said. Pashinian stressed that food stores as well as firms manufacturing foodstuffs, beverages and personal hygiene items will be allowed to continue to operate for now. Armenia -- An empty street cafe in Yerevan, March 14, 2020. “I am calling on our compatriots to stay at home as much as possible and to leave their homes only in case of extreme necessity,” added Pashinian. All Armenian bars, night clubs and other entertainment spots were shut down on Sunday. The government reported 190 coronavirus cases at that point. Pashinian stressed that only 25 of the individuals infected with the deadly virus to date are suffering from pneumonia. He insisted that their lives are not at risk. Two other patients have recovered from the disease in the past week, according to Armenian health authorities. The authorities have reported no fatalities yet. Some 600 Armenians were kept in quarantine and hundreds of others in self-isolation before the announcement of the latest official COVID-19 statistics. In Pashinian’s words, more than 70 of them will undergo final coronavirus tests at the end of their two-week confinement on Tuesday. He said there are “grounds to think” that most of them will test negative for the virus. The premier did not say how many new confinement orders will be issued by the authorities as a result of the latest coronavirus cases. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.