YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Two Chinese citizens were taken on Wednesday to a hospital in Armenia and tested there for possible cases of a dangerous new virus which has infected thousands of people in China and killed at least 132 of them.
Officials in Yerevan said they were hospitalized after being barred from again entering neighboring Georgia at the main Armenian-Georgian border crossing.
According to Liana Torosyan, a senior official from the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the Chinese travelers showed no symptoms of any virus while the other only had a mild fever and is now undergoing an X-ray examination of their lungs at a Yerevan hospital specializing in treatment of infectious diseases.
“Let’s see what results the X-ray will produce,” Torosyan told reporters. “The condition of both patients is satisfactory at the moment. They will certainly remain under medical surveillance in separate insulated wards.”
Torosyan insisted that the likelihood of either Chinese national suffering from the new kind of coronavirus is low because they had left China before the disease outbreak. “During the entire [two-week disease] incubation period they were in Georgia and Armenia and had no health issues,” she said.
There have been around 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus nationwide in China so far. Dozens of other cases have been confirmed outside mainland China as well, including in Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Asia.
Nobody has been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Armenia, according to the country’s medical authorities. Speaking at a joint news conference with Torosyan, Deputy Health Minister Lena Nanushyan said Armenia is considered a low-risk zone for the spread of the virus not least because of the absence of direct flights to China. Nanushyan said the health authorities are examining Armenian citizens returning from China via third countries and taking other precautions.
The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan last week advised Armenians to refrain from travelling to China for now. It said six Armenians live in the Chinese city of Wuhan lying at the epicenter of the outbreak.
Torosyan admitted that the authorities currently lack the capacity to definitively detect cases of the coronavirus through laboratory testing. But she said they should be equipped to do so by the end of next week.