YEREVAN (RFE/RL) – Armenia has banned virtually all foreign nationals from entering the country due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

The Armenian government imposed last month such a ban only on the citizens of a few dozen states — notably China, Iran, Italy and Spain — that were hit hardest by coronavirus.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the government decided to extend the travel ban to the entire world because virtually all countries have recorded coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

In a statement, the Ministry said that the ban will not cover those foreigners who are married to Armenians or have Armenian residency permits, as well as foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations. But it cautioned that they all will have to self-isolate or be put in quarantine immediately after entering the country.

Armenia’s land borders with neighboring Georgia and Iran  which were closed for travel in March, and virtually all airlines stopped flying to Yerevan and Gyumri by the beginning of this month. The latest government measure may therefore change little in practice.

According to the Foreign Ministry statement, the government expanded the travel ban on April 3 just before the spread of coronavirus in Armenia began slowing down.

The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday, that 20 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 853. Twenty-five other Armenians recovered from the virus in the same period, according to the Ministry.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan seized upon these figures to express “cautious optimism” about the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. He again said that the government will consider easing a nationwide lockdown if the downward trend continues in the coming days.

Armenia has reported eight coronavirus-related deaths so far.

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