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Living With the Virus: Lockdown Relaxed in Armenia

“It is evident that until at least March-April next year, before a vaccine is found for COVID-19, we will continue having cases of infection” said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in a special address together with Deputy Prime Minister, Commandant of the State of Exception, Tigran Avinyan and Health Minister, Arsen Torosyan. “Therefore, our task is, to do our best starting [Monday, May 4th] to create new conditions of cohabitation in order to be able to live parallel to the virus and not in lockdown. It is impossible to live confined for a whole year,” said Pashinyan.

Most of the imposed restrictions related to the pandemic will be eased from May 4th, and most economic activities will be resumed, with a few exceptions. Educational institutions will remain closed, as will be large commerce facilities such as malls and large markets. Indoor entertainment and food serving facilities will also be closed giving way to only outdoor restaurants and cafes remaining open. Public transport will also be shut down and will only resume after a certain phase of adaptation and imposition of certain rules.

The restrictions allowed to avoid a total collapse of the health system, insists Avinyan. He believes that this has allowed the state to ramp up healthcare capacities (buying new respiratory machines, mobilization of hospitals, training of health personnel etc) and to prepare handling a few thousand cases at a time.

Future developments will greatly depend on the personal responsibility of each citizen and also businesses conducting economic activities. Business entities will have to abide by clear rules, violation of which will be punishable. Avinyan insists that the inspectorate will have a great role, although citizen control will be most effective.

As of morning May 4th, the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Armenia reported additional cases of infection and deaths compared to the previous day. Infection continues to spread, with a total of 2507 officially registered cases of which more than half (1393) continue treatment under medical supervision, while the rest have already been treated. 39 persons have succumbed to the disease complicated due to additional conditions. 320 of the total infected are medical personnel. Thus, eased movement and economic activities have significantly added the number of new infections jumping to around 120 each day.

Health Minister Arsen Torosyan also adds that the number of patients in a severe condition has also risen. 65 patients are estimated to be in a severe condition, with 35 being critically ill and 9 tubed to respiratory ventilators. “The rise is related to non-abiding with the rules that could have prevented large outbreaks in production collectives, and simply places where people gather.”

We have a capacity to handle 3000-4000 cases daily, of which 1500 cases in hospitals. We keep 850 of the patients in hospitals, and isolate 350 asymptomatic patients in hotels. Torosyan

The health system is not believed to be overburdened, however reaching 3000-4000 cases undergoing treatment at a time is most undesired scenario. “We will have to do more thorough classification of patients,” says Torosyan.

Pashinyan promised that a large production of face masks will be ramped up with 200.000 masks produced on a daily basis, “So we won’t have problems of masks,” he holds. The State of Exception office will run until the end of state of exception.