YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Health Minister Arsen Torosyan urged people to stop meeting relatives and friends, avoid going to restaurants and stay at home “as much as possible” on Sunday as official statistics showed no letup in coronavirus infections in Armenia.
“We need a conscious lockdown, rather than an obligatory one,” Torosyan wrote on his Facebook page. “We all must limit our nonessential contacts, movements, visits, events and meetings. We must stay at home as much as possible.”
“Do not visit your loved ones unless there a vital need for that,” he said.
Armenians, he said, must also minimize physical contact with neighbors, shun birthday parties and funerals, end sight-seeing day trips to the countryside and even refrain from evening strolls in streets or parks.
“Stop visiting cafes and restaurants,” added the minister. “These are the only places where you can be without a mask and infect each other.”
Torosyan appealed to the population as the Armenian Ministry of Health registered 736 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. The ministry reported 482 single-day infections the following morning. The decrease was apparently due to a smaller number of coronavirus tests carried out on Sunday.
According to the ministry, 7 more people died from COVID-19 in the past day, bringing Armenia’s official death toll to 433. The figure does not include the deaths of 143 other people who were also infected with the disease. The health authorities say that they were primarily caused by other, pre-existing conditions.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country of about 3 million reached 25,127 by Monday morning. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan acknowledged on Friday that Armenia now has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the world.
At least a dozen deputies of Armenia’s 132-member parliament have reportedly been infected with the coronavirus. Vahe Enfiajian, a deputy parliament speaker and BHK member, was the first to announce his positive test result on June 23. Several other deputies admitted testing positive in the following days.
The parliamentary majority My Step bloc has also been hit by COVID-19 infections. One of its deputies, Hayk Gevorgyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that he had a coronavirus test on June 24 hours after showing some symptoms of the disease during a parliament session. He said he believe that he was infected inside the parliament building.
According to Gevorgyan, there were 7 confirmed coronavirus cases among My Step deputies as of Saturday.
Despite the continuing spread of the virus, Pashinyan has repeatedly indicated that his government has no plans to impose another lockdown and will continue instead to put the emphasis on getting more Armenians to practice social distancing and wear face masks in public. The premier said on Friday that the government is planning a further toughening of sanctions against people not complying with these rules.