YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his wife Anna Hakobian tested negative for the novel coronavirus on Saturday after spending a night in self-isolation in the town of Sevan, the Armenian leader said during a live broadcast on Facebook.
Pashinyan said they had decided to be tested for the potentially deadly virus also known as COVID-19 after concerns were voiced in Armenian media over Hakobian’s contacts with the wife of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during her visit to the Latin American country on March 7.
Earlier this week international media reports suggested Bolsanaro may have been affected by the virus after one of his aides tested positive, but the Brazilian leader later said he had tested negative for COVID-19.
“We are glad to tell you that our tests are negative, which means that for now we have avoid the coronavirus,” Pashinyan said.
Armenia reported five new coronavirus cases on March 14, bringing the total to 18. The infection first brought in from coronavirus-hit Iran and Italy was later transmitted locally. Scores of people suspected of having had contacts with coronavirus patients have been either quarantined or self-quarantined in Armenia at present.
Pashinyan said today that Armenia’s first coronavirus patient, a 29-year-old man hospitalized on March 1 after being evacuated from Iran, now tests negative.
“It means that he has been cured,” Pashinyan said. “He will undergo one more test and if the result of that test is negative again, we will be able to say that the man is totally cured.”
Armenian authorities say that the most affected community in Armenia is Etchmiadin, a town situated some 20 kilometers to the west of capital Yerevan.
According to Pashinyan, 11 of the current coronavirus patients are people who had contacts with a woman who had arrived from Italy and later tested positive.
According to officials, the woman had concealed from healthcare workers who regularly contacted her on the phone to monitor her health condition that she had fever and later participated in her son’s engagement party that was attended by several dozen people. All of them have been placed under quarantine, according to officials.
“We have managed to isolate all participants of the Etchmiadzin party and their surroundings. At this moment about 200 people are isolated,” Pashinyan said.
The prime minister said that Etchmiadzin is now the most risky community in Armenia in terms of potential coronavirus spread and urged residents of the town to take extra precautions. “I know that at this moment most people in Etchmiadzin are staying at home,” Pashinyan said, again calling on all people who suspect they may have come into contact with potentially coronavirus-affected persons to stay indoors and contact emergency services if they exhibit coronavirus-like symptoms.
The prime minister again urged people to refrain from participating in mass events in order to reduce the risks of coronavirus spread. Earlier this week he himself suspended his campaign in Armenia’s constitutional referendum scheduled for next month.
The Armenian government has taken a set of measures to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus infection in the country. Thus, all schools, universities and kindergartens will remain closed at least until March 23.
The border crossings with Georgia have been closed for citizens for 10 days, but no restrictions have been placed on cargo traffic.
Earlier this month Armenia also reintroduced a visa regime and tightened controls at the border with neighboring Iran over coronavirus-related risks.
Armenia prepares to evacuate citizens from Italy on March 15 on board a charter flight. The government says all evacuees will be quarantined. According to the government’s decision, from now on all passengers arriving in Armenia from European countries where the coronavirus risks are assessed as high will also have to be placed under quarantine or quarantine themselves at their homes.