Total number of people infected with COVID-19: 663
Total number of recovered: 33
Total number of deaths: 7
COVID-19 Patient Deaths
Yet another COVID-19 patient has died at the Nork Infectious Disease Hospital. The 76-year-old patient developed pneumonia and had pre-existing health issues including diabetes and hypertension. This brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths to seven in Armenia.
A 78-year-old COVID-19 patient passed away this evening at the Nork Infectious Disease Hospital, according to the spokesperson of the Health Ministry. The patient had developed double pneumonia and also had pre-existing health issues, including diabetes and hypertension. The deceased was not a citizen of the Republic of Armenia. This brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths to six in the country.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Alina Nikoghosyan confirmed in a Facebook post that a 68 year-old COVID-19 patient died at the Nork Infection Disease Hospital. Nikoghosyan said the patient developed double pneumonia and had pre-existing chronic health issues including coronary heart disease and respiratory issues. This brings the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 to five in the country.
European Union Financial Support
The European Union will be providing assistance in the amount of 51 million euros to help Armenia fight against the spread of COVID19. In particular, 18 million euros in new funds plus 33 million euros redirected towards supplying medical devices and equipment, training for medical and laboratory staff, support to SMEs and the business community, as well as social and humanitarian assistance to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Government Session: Updates on COVID-19
During the Government session, Health Minister Arsen Torosyan provided updates on the COVID-19 situation in Armenia. Torosyan said that over 16 institutions have been allocated to keep infected patients who have minor symptoms and those that came in contact with the already infected people. He also said that as of today there are nine hospitals treating only coronavirus patients, including the Nork Infectious Disease Hospital, Scientific Center of Trauma and Orthopedics, Police Hospital, the maternity unit of Surb Astvatsamayr Medical Center, Artashat Medical Center, Infectious Disease Hospitals of Gyumri and Vanadzor, and Kapan Medical Center. The Minister went on to say that considering the increased number of infected people, the largest state hospital of the country, St. Gregory the Illuminator, will also start treating only patients infected with COVID-19. Torosyan noted that this will allow them to have enough beds for some time.
Although Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that it would not be correct to make assumptions/predictions based on the number of cases that were confirmed in one day, he noted that there is a risk of an increase of cases. He also clarified that the number of people that have been tested increased during the past few days and that the government wants to test as many people as possible. Speaking about the current situation, Pashinyan noted that there are two extremes regarding the spread of COVID-19, one being panic and other being extreme calmness. He noted that in the initial stages the government was successful in ensuring people did not panic, but that now their challenge is to make sure people take the spread of the virus seriously. Pashinyan noted that the overall calm is understandable because over 80 percent of infected patients do not even have a temperature, but they still need to stay in isolation because otherwise they will infect others. Practically, these patients are not being treated, they are just being monitored and tested, and when the results come back negative, they are free to go home. The extreme measures and restrictions that were introduced by the government, are aimed at protecting the health and security of people. Pashinyan said that the Police and the Special Commission are closely following that people comply with those restrictions.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the recent controversial bill passed by the National Assembly that allows the government to track the location of infected/possibly infected people and those they have contacted. He once again reaffirmed that the bill does not allow the government to wiretap private phone conversations or messages and that the government already has the tools, according to its laws, to wiretap people if there are reasons specified by the law. He went on to say that his government, which received the support of over 70 percent of the population does not need to control people and that it is illegitimate governments that resort to measures.
Tigran Avinyan, the Warden of the Special Commission and Deputy Prime Minister, urged all those citizens who are required to self isolate to closely follow the restrictions and that people working at the Ministry of Emergency Situations will regularly contact them to get updates. He also said that by testing more people and closely monitoring infected/possibly infected people, the government will be able to more effectively break the chains of transmissions of the virus.
Zaruhi Batoyan, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs introduced the ninth assistance program, which is targeted to providing support to families, which are facing economic hardship because of the spread of coronavirus and have children under 18-years-old. Eligible families must have one of following requirements:
– a child’s parents were not employed as of March 12, 2020 and were not temporarily or permanently employed between March 12 and March 31, 2020;
– child’s family was not registered in the database of vulnerable families or the family’s assessment rating is below 28.01 as of March 12, 2020; and
– a child’s parents or one parent has not been a private employer as of March 31, 2020 and their activities were not terminated as of the same date.
Batoyan clarified that this is a one time assistance program and 26,500 AMD will be provided per child. The assistance will be provided based on the online application submitted by one of the parents in the ssa.am webpage. To be a beneficiary of the program, the parents or a single parent and their children under 18-years-old are required to be permanent residents of Armenia and between March 12 and March 31, 2020 have been in Armenia. A family cannot be a beneficiary of the program, if the parents or a single parent of a child had temporary or permanent employment between January 1 and March 1, 2020 and the average monthly salary of parents or a single parent was above 500,000 AMD. Batoyan clarified that beneficiaries of this program can be all those who do not comply with the requirements of any of the programs launched by the government. And the families that comply with the requirements of more than one social assistance program are free to choose the one that they prefer (families can receive assistance only through one program). The online application form will be finalized after April 9, and information about the beneficiaries of the program will be published at the Ministry’s official website.
PM Pashinyan clarified that since the spread of the COVID-19, the government has been working to make sure that the assistance programs are targeted towards those who need it the most. So far, the government initiated four social and four economic assistance programs (plus the one introduced during today’s government session), and three of those programs have already been launched. Despite the government’s efforts, however, there is still a group in the society that is not included in any of the assistance programs and those according to Pashinyan are employed but not registered citizens and those that are not employed at all and are not included in family assistance programs (do not receive family benefits). He went on to say that the actual beneficiaries of this assistance program are children and that assistance will be provided to all those children who comply with the above mentioned requirements. Pashinyan expressed hope that all the assistance programs will help citizens of Armenia to overcome the crisis.
Updates were provided about the assistance programs that have already been launched, which are in the active implementation phase.
Health Minister Arsen Torosyan: Trying to Contain Transmission
Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said during a press conference that on April 1, 328 tests were conducted, of which 92 came back positive. More than half of the 92 who tested positive were either already in quarantine or in self-isolation. The Minister said that there are also new infection sources, most of them “imported” by Armenian citizens who returned from other countries via air and cargo truck drivers.
According to Torosyan, these cases were discovered quite early, and even though contact tracing is underway, he believed they have not been in contact with many people. The new cases have mainly been discovered at border checkpoints and accordingly been transferred to hospitals or have been quarantined.
Taking into consideration these numbers, Torosyan said everyone must be more than vigilant in stopping the further spread of the virus by following instructions on hygiene, self-isolation and no movement with twice or three times the vigilance in order to break the chain of infections.Torosyan said this is everyone’s problem and people should approach it with a sense of personal responsibility. The Minister said doctors were unable to save the life of a 89-year-old citizen yesterday and the chain should be broken to especially safeguard the lives of the elderly and people with secondary health conditions [Note: A 68-year-old COVID-19 patient passed away following Torosyan’s press conference, bringing the total number of deaths to five in the country].
Torosyan said he thinks the number of recoveries will increase on a daily basis as a large number of previously confirmed patients are nearing their 14-day quarantine.
Currently, 16 hotels and guesthouses are being used to quarantine people, including patients who have tested positive but have light or no symptoms and also those who have simply come into contact with confirmed cases. Torosyan said this should give people an idea of the amount of work and organization that is being put into this effort. Each location needs an epidemiologist, medical staff, maintenance staff, catering … and all of this is being developed at a speed that would be required for wartime mobilization efforts.
Nine hospitals are now fully dedicated to healthcare delivery for COVID-19 patients. The main wing of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Hospital, which has the largest bed capacity in the country, will take the largest number of COVID-19 patients starting tomorrow. Torosyan said a number of other medical facilities have been refurbished, renovated and fitted to house patients and this has been done in an astonishingly short period of time. “A whole new healthcare system is being created in a logic similar to wartime mobilization efforts, and this is being done so that the main healthcare system can afford to continue rendering services to other patients. We cannot allow citizens with other health needs to be deprived of medical attention because of coronavirus,” said Torosyan.
The latest increase in numbers of patients cannot be considered a steep surge even though there is no denying that there are new sources of infection in the country, Torosyan said adding that the increase in numbers is also because of the additional daily testing that the Ministry is carrying out.
The Minister said it is impossible to predict when Armenia will reach its peak: “It could be at any moment. Peaks are usually visible post-factum, after the numbers start decreasing.” Torosyan said it is their aim to have that anticipated peak as soon as possible.
While 80 percent of patients in the country are asymptomatic, Torosyan said that does not mean there is no danger to a patient’s health. According to the Minister, it is preferable to have those patients in a hospital, even if they never had a fever, so that there can be operative medical intervention in case complications unexpectedly arise. Keeping the patients in hospitals is also a way to make sure they do not infect others.
Even though the Prime Minister announced that the situation in Armenia still remains under control, Torosyan noted there is the possibility that the country will reach a point when it will be impossible to trace each new case: “We are currently at a certain distance from that point and the aim is to put as much distance between our current situation and that point so that we never reach it.” In case the situation quickly escalates, Torosyan said the healthcare system will then be forced to only take care of patients with serious conditions and those with light cases will be told to stay home. Torosyan said everything is being done by the Health Ministry and the state apparatus to avoid having to take such a decision.
The Minister said that technically testing everyone in the country would be possible but that would have very little practical implication: “We can decide what to do with all the positive cases – hospitalize, quarantine – and at that point we will likely not have the capacity to do either. We can tell them to stay home and this still does not guarantee the health of those who have not been infected. There is still the possibility of them getting infected a day or two after they have been tested.” Therefore, according to Torosyan mass testing, to be effective, should be carried out at least periodically. The path Armenia has chosen is to increase its testing capacity and carry out an increasing number of tests but based on doctor’s recommendations. Torosyan said Armenia is close to carrying out 400-500 tests per day and with the purchase of new technology, Armenia will increase its testing capacity to 1500 tests per day.
Torosyan said that other than the foyer of the Karen Demirjyan complex, venues with the capacity to be turned into field hospitals have been identified in each of Armenia’s marzes. Armenia should be ready for any scenario: “There is nothing extraordinary about this, it would in fact be strange if we did not discuss all possible scenarios. We have also discussed worst-case scenarios when there is no room for patients in hospitals or even field hospitals, something that has happened in other countries.”
To avoid such scenarios, Torosyan again appealed to citizens and called for a heightened sense of personal responsibility: “A pandemic is no different from wars, earthquakes, floods and any other disasters, we should be ready for any scenario.”
Armenia Currently has 55 ventilators available and designated for COVID-19 patients only. Five of these ventilators are currently in use for five patients in critical condition – four elderly patients and a young person with an atypical form of pneumonia. An additional 20 ventilators will be available at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Hospital and about 100 of a certain kind of ventilator are expected to arrive from China on a charter flight; the same plane will also deliver five or six respirators of a different model. Another 50 have already been commissioned; 25 of the 50 will arrive in mid-April and the rest in mid-May.