Armenia’s Health Minister Arsen Torosian and Minister for Local Government and Infrastructures Suren Papikian have isolated themselves after officials from their ministries tested positive for coronavirus.

Both men did not attend Thursday’s weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan during which their self-isolations were first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian. There was no word on the number of infected ministry officials.

A spokeswoman for Papikian, Armine Muradian, said that he tested negative for the virus on Wednesday. “The minister [Papikian] and other employees are in self-isolation at the moment because of having been in contact with [coronavirus] carriers,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

“There are confirmed cases within the ministry [of health,] the circle of [infected officials’] contacts has been ascertained, and epidemiological actions are continuing,” said Torosian’s spokeswoman, Alina Nikoghosian. “That is why Health Minister Arsen Torosian self-isolated and had a coronavirus test this morning. We are now waiting for the result.”

Torosian announced later in the day that his test has come back negative. “I have no symptoms,” he wrote on Facebook. “I will reduce my physical contacts to almost zero in order not to harm anyone.”

Torosian found himself in hot water last week after a photograph of him sitting in close proximity to other people at an open-air Yerevan café was widely circulated on social media. Critics of the Armenian government said that the health minister, who regularly urges citizens to practice social distancing and issues warnings about grave consequences of the epidemic, set a bad example for the country’s population.

Nikoghosian dismissed the criticism on May 7, arguing that the government allowed cafes and restaurants with outdoor terraces to reopen on May 4. She said that the minister simply held a working “discussion” with his deputies at the café adjacent to the ministry building.

The Ministry of Health said on Thursday morning that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia rose by 142 to 3,860 in the past 24 hours. The ministry also reported another fatality which brought the official death toll from the disease to 49.

Citing the increased number of cases, Deputy Health Minister Lena Nanushian acknowledged that the authorities are increasingly finding it impossible to trace all people who have come into contact with those infected with the virus. Nanushian also could not say whether Armenia has passed the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic.

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