PM Pashinyan: Situation is Grave
During a live briefing this evening, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Head of Police Arman Sargsyan and Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan spoke about the COVID-19 situation following a session of the Special Commission on the State of Emergency. Nikol Pashinyan said that, unfortunately, the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic in Armenia continues to escalate and remains tense.
The Prime Minister extended his condolences to the families and loved ones of the 15 patients who died yesterday of the virus (the highest daily number of casualties in Armenia to date). According to the Prime Minister, analysis shows that Yerevan is the largest infection hub and the potential source of infections are everywhere from public transportation, to offices/factories, restaurants and banks. Pashinyan said the solution is compliance with safety regulations – wearing masks extensively and everywhere, disinfecting hands regularly and physical distancing. Pashinyan said he wants to call on people to stop manipulative and unsubstantiated discussions regarding the price of face masks. Since the situation is more than serious and becoming graver, Pashinyan said he considers the speculations around the price of the masks inappropriate since no one is obliged to buy masks; people are allowed to wear homemade masks, especially as studies show that homemade masks can be very effective if worn properly. Pashinyan noted that no one refuses to buy glasses if their eyesight is weak, or soap to wash their hands. He said washing hands has become a necessity of life at one point or another and the price of soap has not stopped people from washing hands; people have not stopped getting haircuts to save money.
The Prime Minister hoped Armenia would never get to a point where hospital beds are not available for those who need them, but also invited listeners to consider that, if that happens, it might be their family member or themselves who are in need of that hospital bed. Pashinyan once again called for a change in public behavior and said administrative measures and fines will be in place to oversee that rules are followed with intensive raids and punitive measures.
Chief of Police Weighs In
Arman Sargsyan, the Chief of Police, said that, over the past two days, the police has collaborated with inspection bodies to conduct regular monitoring in several administrative districts of Yerevan, including Davtashen, Nubarashen, Nork Marash and Kentron. Sargsyan noted that, after reports of violations had been filed against citizens, police officers along with inspection officers conducted monitoring again in the same area, to ensure compliance with the rules. Over 104 citizens were fined in the suburb of Davtashen and 124 others were fined in Nubarashen and Nork Marash. Sixty-three businesses were temporarily suspended.
Sargsyan also reminded that checkpoints have been installed on inter-regional roads to ensure that drivers are following the requirement to wear face masks. If they don’t, they will be fined. As part of the measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, police officers are conducting regular monitoring to ensure that citizens have face masks when outside. Both passengers and drivers need to wear face masks on public transportation and in taxis. During the past several days, over 2,000 administrative violations were filed. Sargsyan assured that police will continue conducting regular monitoring to ensure that citizens comply with the regulations and follow the guidelines. He urged citizens to avoid public gatherings, celebrations, hiking and pilgrimages during the long weekend.
Health Minister on Bed Capacity
Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said there are 316 patients in critical condition, 53 in extremely critical condition and 17 people on ventilators. Torosyan said the Ministry continues to expand the country’s intensive care hospital bed capacity to make sure no one in need of intensive care is left unattended. According to Torosyan, there will be an additional 100 beds made available in the upcoming month or so. They will be at two of the country’s largest medical centers; 50 will be at St. Grigor the Illuminator Hospital and 50 at Erebuni Medical Center, where patients can receive comprehensive treatment.
The Minister said that, despite the fact that doctors are working around-the-clock, they are not able to save every life. Even though the majority of cases are asymptomatic, the danger posed by the virus is very real. Torosyan noted there is no guarantee that even a young and healthy person will not die if infected.
Torosyan said that, since asymptomatic patients are no longer hospitalized and are under the medical supervision of their local clinics, there has been a wave of discontent and tension. Torosyan called on citizens to report complaints or any shortcomings directly to the Ministry of Health by calling the 8003 hotline to make sure that no one is overlooked and any existing shortcomings are addressed.
Shant TV, Vahagn Hakobyan: There is often talk about the possibility of returning to a lockdown, what are the indicators that would prompt such a decision and how strict will the restrictions be?
Pashinyan: Our goal is to keep the situation under control and avoid returning to lockdown. The indicator will be intensive care capacity, where the situation is becoming more strained by the day. As the number of new cases increases, the number of people in need of intensive care also rises. At this point, no one can guarantee that we will not be obliged to return to a lockdown. But before a complete lockdown, there might be other restrictions, like making masks mandatory in not only closed spaces but in open air areas as well, which is something that can be more easily monitored as it is visually obvious.
Hraparak Daily, Anush Tashdents: What have been the disagreements between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Health; the Minister of Health and the Warden of the Special Commission since the coronavirus outbreak? What have been the disagreements and whose preference was eventually implemented? How does it happen that the Prime Minister announces that the situation is under control but the Minister of Health says the opposite?
Pashinyan: There can be no discrepancy between the Minister and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister listens to everyone and then makes a decision, government members under the Prime Minister are obliged to carry out that decision. Generally, our discussions are quite heated, with diverse opinions where everyone gets to voice their views. It is in that discourse that we try to find the optimal solutions and make optimal decisions.
The diversity of opinions can come from a couple of standpoints. For example, the Minister of Health, being responsible for healthcare, speaks from his point of view, which is his job. But the job of the government as a whole is to balance the issues of the economy, social welfare and healthcare. This is not a discrepancy in opinion but a balancing act between priorities. It has always been our strategy to balance these three aspects to the extent possible. This can not fully satisfy the Ministry of Health as they would naturally prefer to see healthcare be front and center. I do not think we have perfectly synchronized the work of state bodies yet but we are doing the utmost to advance in that direction as well.
Treatment at Home for Light Cases of COVID-19
The Ministry of Health has issued a statement regarding treatment of COVID-19 cases at home. Healthcare providers from primary care units (polyclinics) assess the condition (and risk) of the patient, provide consultation and advice to the patient on how to prevent the transmission of the infection, and take necessary precautions.
On the doctor’s instructions, the temperature of the patient and caregiver is taken twice daily. The doctor assesses the condition of the patient and the caregiver by phone calls or home visits. If necessary, the doctor will refer the patient for diagnostic tests such as x-rays.
In order to prevent the transmission of the infection, it is necessary to limit the patient’s movement in the house, minimize the use of common areas or isolate them, providing them a well-ventilated room. At least 1-2 meters distance must be kept from the patient. It is also necessary to limit the number of caregivers for patients and not to allow visitors.
Caregivers should be provided with individual protective equipment. The patient and the caregiver, when in the same room, must wear medical masks. If the mask gets wet, it should be replaced immediately with a new, clean, dry mask and changed at least once every three hours. The caregiver should wear disposable gloves and use masks and gloves only once.
Gloves, masks and other household waste should be stored in a trash can with a lid in the patient’s room before being removed as waste.
After any contact with the patient or their environment, before and after preparing meals, before eating, after using the toilet, you must wash your hands with soap. If your hands are not visibly dirty, you can use an alcohol-based disinfectant. After washing, it is preferable to dry your hands with a disposable paper towel.
Under no circumstances should the patient’s belongings be used (dishes, food, drink, towels, cloth or linen, toothbrush, cigarettes).
The surfaces that the patient could potentially have touched, including the bathroom and toilet, should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Use household soap or laundry detergent. After rinsing, use a regular household disinfectant containing 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (chlorine). The patient’s dirty linen should be separated in a closed container. Wash clothes, underwear, bath and hand towels must be washed with laundry detergent or in a washing machine at a temperature of 60-90 °C and dried well.
Gloves and protective clothing should be worn when cleaning surfaces and contaminated clothing or linen. After use, wash household gloves with soap and disinfect with 0.1% chlorine solution.
Pulse Oximeters Secured
The Ministry of Health informs that, within the framework of illness prevention and control, 500 pulse oximeters have been acquired and distributed to hospitals and clinics across the country. Pulse oximetry is a noninvasive method for monitoring a person’s oxygen saturation (SpO2) and is used in treating COVID-19 patients.
The Yerevan Municipality and municipalities across the country have also received 24,000 protective gowns, 20,000 gloves, 14,000 three-ply face masks, 1,180 hand sanitizers (250 mL) and 840 protective glasses to be distributed to local primary health providers.
Over the last week, the Ministry has also organized 15 online trainings for 2,021 employees of primary health clinics in the country on how to care for COVID patients. Training will be continuous.
Update on the Number of Cases
The Ministry of Health reported 442 new cases of COVID-19 (based on 1,253 tests) and 32 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 8,216, of which 4,772 are active cases and 3,287 have already recovered. In a new daily high, 15 COVID-19 patients died within the last 24 hours (ages between 43 and 92), bringing the total number of deaths to 113. To date, 54,931 tests have been conducted.