YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — As the spread of coronavirus in Armenia continued unabated on Sunday Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned that the authorities may soon be unable to hospitalize or isolate most infected people.
The Armenian government imposed serious restrictions on people’s movements and ordered the closure of most businesses in late March amid a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in the country. The daily rises in the number of such cases fell significantly afterwards, leading the government to reopen some sectors of the domestic economy already on April 13.
The government allowed late last week the resumption of more types of business activity and eased its restrictions on transport links between Yerevan and the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reported a larger number of new coronavirus cases in the course of the week. It said on Monday morning that 62 more people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours.
The total number of cases thus reached 1,808, up from 1,339 cases recorded one week ago. The nationwide death toll from the virus rose from 22 to 29 in the same period.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Torosian complained that because of the “multitude” of infection sources the health authorities increasingly have trouble tracing people who have come into contact with COVID-19 patients.
Torosian said that hospitals and healthcare workers treating patients are another cause of the continuing infections. “We are now concentrating on stopping the spread of the disease inside medical centers and protecting doctors as well as those patients that are not infected with coronavirus,” he said.
The minister also blamed the rising COVID-19 numbers on people’s increased movements inside the country. “We can see that their growing mobility is leading to new cases and are now preparing for a situation where we may not hospitalize all [infected people] or keep them in hotels,” he warned.
All people testing positive for the virus in Armenian have been taken to hospitals or hotels requisitioned by the authorities and turned into temporary medical centers. According to the Ministry of Health, 931 people were treated or monitored by medical personnel there as of Monday morning. Almost 850 other Armenians have recovered from COVID-19 to date.
The ministry said earlier that that it has set up 1,500 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients across the country.
“I certainly don’t want that day to come, but one day we will not be able to go after every case and it will not make sense to seal off any town or village anymore,” Torosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
From that moment onwards, he said, the health authorities will stop hospitalizing infected individuals showing mild symptoms of the disease or none at all and will only treat patients who are in a serious condition. “We don’t know when that day will come,” he said.
Since the beginning of March, the authorities have also quarantined thousands of people who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients or returned to Armenia from other countries. They all have undergone coronavirus tests at the end of a two-week confinement.
In Torosian’s words, some 2,200 people remain in quarantine and about 3,000 others are self-isolated in their homes at present.