Armenia’s PM Pashinian tests positive for coronavirus

Armenia’s PM Pashinian tests positive for coronavirus
Pashinian has said he will run the government from self-isolation at home.
By bne IntelIiNews June 1, 2020

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and four members of his immediate family have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

"Unfortunately, the results of our tests are positive," Pashinian said during a live Facebook broadcast on June 1, a day on which he turned 45.

Pashinian lives with his wife and three daughters. His son now serves in the army and does not live with the family.

The PM said he was not experiencing any coronavirus symptoms but took a test anyway as he was planning to visit troops. He said his test results came back on May 31.

"After that, my whole family took tests and they also came back positive," he said, adding that none of his family members had coronavirus symptoms either.

Pashinian said he was continuing to run the government from his residence, where he is self-isolating.

Armenia is currently enduring a spike in coronavirus cases after ending its lockdown, with many officials contending it was not economically feasible to maintain such tight restrictions on economic activity any longer.

In the social media broadcast, Pashinian also determined that there was a high probability that he caught the virus during a government meeting "from a waiter, who brought us glasses of water".

"I saw that he was wearing no gloves and rebuked him, but I think they were working without gloves earlier. The waiter has also tested positive for coronavirus," Pashinian said.

In line with a government rule that people wear a mask in all public places, Pashinian has worn a mask during all his daily COVID-19 daily briefings.

The South Caucasus country by the end of June 1 had officially logged 9,492 cases of COVID-19 (up 210 on the day), with 139 fatalities (up eight on the day).

US funds "incredibly dangerous" misinformation

Separately, the US government is funding a health website in Armenia that has published “incredibly dangerous” misinformation about the coronavirus (COVID-19), British investigative online publication openDemocracy has reported.

The most-read article on website in May was a piece taken from a local Facebook page calling on people not to receive any potential COVID-19 vaccination, it said in a May 28 report. Drawing 131,000 views and 28,000 social-media likes—a large number for Armenia, a country of slightly less than three million people—it claimed such vaccination is part of a conspiracy led by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his health foundation.

The second-most read article falsely claims that relatives of an Armenian man who died of a heart attack were offered money to sign a document saying he succumbed to COVID-19, openDemocracy reported.

Other material on said the COVID-19 pandemic was “fake”.

A website disclaimed stated that it was “funded through a [US] Department of State Public Affairs Section grant” but that its articles “do not necessarily reflect” the views of the US government.

NGO Armenian Association of Young Doctors launched the website last year. Headed by urologist Gevorg Grigorian—who, according to open Democracy, has openly expressed anti-LGBT views and has connections with the far-right VETO party—it obtained  a grant from the US Embassy in Yerevan through a US State Department programme designed to promote transparency and public education. The grants are worth up to $24,000, according to the embassy.