RFE/RL Armenian Report – 05/22/2020


Armenian Health Minister In Fresh Warning On Coronavirus Cases

        • Susan Badalian

Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian (R) visits the intensive care unit of 
Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital, Yerevan, May 10, 2020.

Armenian hospitals are increasingly struggling to cope with growing coronavirus 
cases and may soon be unable to give life-saving treatment to all infected 
people hospitalized in serious condition, Health Minister Arsen Torosian said on 

Amid the continuing rapid spread of the virus in Armenia, Torosian again warned 
of a possible shortage of intensive care beds at the hospitals treating COVID-19 
patients. He said that at least 150 of just over 200 such beds currently 
available in the country are already occupied by patients.

“All of the 50 [vacant] beds might be occupied as early as today, whereas 
[occupied beds] will be freed up very slowly because citizens kept in our 
intensive care units … usually stay there for around 20 days,” he said during a 
video conference with members of Armenia’s Public Council.

Accordingly, Torosian acknowledged that doctors dealing with the COVID-19 
epidemic may soon have to switch to a “deep sorting” of patients that show 
severe symptoms of the disease.

“The deep sorting is also done during wars, with mainly those patients who have 
a chance to survive admitted for treatment,” he said. “It’s possible that at 
this rate [of coronavirus infections] we will opt for that in the coming days. 
But we are doing everything to avoid that, for example, by deploying new beds.”

The minister’s latest stark warning came as the health authorities stopped 
hospitalizing or isolating infected people showing mild symptoms of the virus or 
none at all. Such individuals, who account for more than 70 percent of all 
cases, will now have to self-isolate at home.

Asymptomatic patients currently kept in hospitals or hotels turned into 
temporary medical care centers will also be sent home.

Torosian defended this measure, saying that the authorities simply have no other 
choice. “There is no more room [for asymptomatic cases,]” he said. “That is why 
we are sending people home.”

Armenia -- A COVID-19 patient is brought to the Surp Grigor Lusavorich hospital 
in Yerevan, April 8, 2020.

The Armenian Ministry of Health reported in the morning that 322 new infections 
and 4 more deaths were registered in the past 24 hours. The total number of 
COVID-19 cases thus reached 5,928 while the official death toll from the disease 
rose to 74.

The latter figure does not include the deaths of 28 other people infected with 
the virus. The ministry claims that those fatalities were primarily caused by 
other, pre-existing diseases.

Torosian warned on Thursday that the number of people dying from coronavirus 
could rise sharply if the highly infectious disease continues to spread rapidly. 
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian likewise said that the “situation is not good.”

Still, Pashinian made clear that the Armenian government will stick to its 
“decentralized” strategy of fighting against the virus which puts the emphasis 
on citizens’ “individual responsibility.”

As part of a nationwide lockdown imposed in late March, the government seriously 
restricted people’s movements and ordered the closure of most nonessential 
businesses. But it began relaxing these restrictions already in mid-April.

The daily numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country have steadily 
increased since then. Critics say that the authorities never properly enforced 
the lockdown and lifted it too soon.

“If there is a two-week total lockdown, not the one which we had [earlier this 
spring,] then I can practically guarantee that we can completely stop 
outbreaks,” Torosian declared on Friday. But he stopped short of publicly urging 
the government to impose such a lockdown.

Karabakh Inauguration Party Raises Eyebrows In Armenia

        • Robert Zargarian

Nagorno-Karabakh -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other 
dignitaries attend a state banquet in Shushi, .

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and key members of his administration caused an 
uproar in Armenia after clearly failing to observe social distancing during a 
state banquet in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday.

The open-air dinner party was held in the town of Shushi following the 
inauguration of Ara Harutiunian, Karabakh’s recently elected new president.

Official photographs of the event showed Pashinian, Armenian parliament speaker 
Ararat Mirzoyan, their wives and dozens of other dignitaries standing tightly 
around tables loaded with various dishes and snacks. None of the guests wore 
gloves, let alone masks.

The photos were widely circulated on social media, prompting criticism from not 
only opponents but also some supporters of the Armenian government. Some critics 
accused Pashinian of recklessness and hypocrisy.

The prime minister attended the inauguration events in Karabakh just hours after 
expressing serious concern over the continuing rapid spread of coronavirus in 
Armenia. “The situation is much more serious than we can imagine,” he warned at 
a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

Pashinian again complained that many Armenians are still not complying with 
social distancing and hygiene rules set by the health authorities. He ordered 
the Armenian police to enforce those rules “more strictly.”

Responding to the uproar, Pashinian’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, insisted that 
the premier and his entourage took all necessary precautions against the virus 
during their latest trip to Karabakh.

“The banquet followed the inauguration ceremony of Artsakh’s new president 
during which the prime minister, his wife, government members and deputies of 
the National Assembly wore masks,” Gevorgian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on 
Friday. “Many of them also wore gloves.”

Deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian argued, for his part, that the COVID-19 
infection rate in Karabakh is much lower than in Armenia. “Fortunately, Karabakh 
does not have the kind of strict restrictions that are in place in Armenia,” he 

Simonian seemed to acknowledge at the same time that the organizers and 
participants of the inauguration party should have been more careful. “We all 
must draw conclusions and learn from our mistakes and shortcomings,” he said.

Authorities in Karabakh have reported 33 coronavirus cases and no deaths 
resulting from them so far. The Armenian-populated territory, which had broken 
away from Azerbaijan in 1991, has around 150,000 residents.

In Armenia, the Ministry of Health reported on Friday 322 new infections and 4 
more deaths. The total number of COVID-19 cases thus reached 5,928.

More Armenians Evacuated From Turkey

Georgia -- Buses carrying Armenians returning to Armenia from Turkey, May 22, 

Armenia evacuated on Friday 168 more Armenian citizens from coronavirus-hit 
Turkey in coordination with Turkish and Georgian authorities.

They reportedly boarded four Armenian buses after being bused from Istanbul to 
the Turkish-Georgian border late at night. They then proceeded to Armenia via 

Armenia’s government paid for the bus service and covered other expenses 
incurred during the evacuation. The Armenian Embassy in Tbilisi said it provided 
the evacuees with food and other essential items during their transit through 
Georgia which was allowed by the Georgian government.

All evacuees were due to be told to self-isolate for two weeks on their arrival 
in Armenia.

More than 70 other Armenians were evacuated from Turkey in early April. The 
Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries arranged their return during a rare 
direct contact.

Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations. Successive Turkish 
governments have also kept the border between the two neighboring states closed 
because of the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Officials in Yerevan say that more than 60,000 Armenian nationals, most of them 
migrant workers who lived in Russia and Europe, have returned to their country 
since March 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic 

According to the Armenian Embassy in Moscow, at least 5,000 Armenians currently 
stuck in Russia also want to return home but are unable to do so because of the 
coronavirus-related absence of regular flights between the two countries. Since 
the beginning of April the embassy has helped to organize a dozen charter 
flights to Yerevan from Moscow and other Russian cities to evacuate a smaller 
number of other citizens.

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.


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