New Health Minster Anahit Avanesyan, PM Nikol Pashinyan and outgoing Health Minister Arsen Torosyan

YEREVAN — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated on Tuesday that the Armenian government has done a good job dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as he explained his decision to replace Health Minister Arsen Torosyan.

Torosyan, who is a senior member of the ruling Civil Contract party, was replaced by his first deputy, Anahit Avanesyan, and appointed as chief of Pashinyan’s staff on Monday.
Introducing Torosyan to the staff, Pashinyan said the Armenian state apparatus needs a major “restart” after the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh that plunged the country into a serious political crisis.

“That restart must definitely start from the prime minister’s staff,” he said. “That restart is the main objective set for Mr. Torosyan.”

The prime minister praised Torosyan’s track record when he introduced Avanesyan to senior officials from the Armenian Ministry of Health in a separate meeting. He said that the ministry has been “one of our most efficient agencies” despite being frequently criticized by the Armenian opposition and media. This is why, he said, the new health minister is a member of the same “team” that has run the ministry since May 2018.

Pashinyan specifically defended its handling of the coronavirus crisis. He argued that Armenia has stopped being one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

“There was a time (in the summer of 2020) when in the context of the fight against the coronavirus they showed us the example of other countries, saying: ‘Look at how you should be fighting against the coronavirus, you don’t know how to fight against the coronavirus.’

“But we were confident that we are following the balanced path. Now that our statements have been borne out by the reality they no longer show us [the example of] those countries.”

Armenia has been hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly 165,000 coronavirus cases. The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that 9 more people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 3,007. The figure does not include the deaths of 734 other Armenians infected with the virus. According to the ministry, they were primarily caused by other diseases. Daily new cases have fallen sharply from thousands to a few hundreds in recent months.

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