Georgia has announced plans to send medical aid to neighboring Armenia to help it cope with the coronavirus crisis, as Yerevan continues to struggle with the worst outbreak in the region.
The Georgian government said the precise nature of assistance is being discussed with the Armenia authorities. “Most likely, we will start by sending in medical personnel,” Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said on June 11. He tasked Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze to work out the details with the Armenian health authorities.
Tikaradze said she had had a phone conversation with her Armenian counterpart, Arsen Torosyan. “We have offered to provide ventilators and medical staff,” Tikaradze said. She also said that Georgia could help its neighbors with diagnostics by importing and analyzing nasopharyngeal samples collected in Armenia.
“We can help Armenia do 500 to 1,000 PCR tests if they send in the samples,” said Amiran Gamkrelidze, director of Georgia’s Center for Disease Control. “You know that there is a four-hour drive [between Yerevan and Tbilisi] and we can provide responses in 24 hours.” Alternatively, he said, Georgia could donate 10,000 PCR tests.
Tikaradze said that two countries’ public health officials will soon hold a conference to discuss Armenia’s current needs and share their experiences in dealing with the coronavirus.
The aid announcement follows a period of coronavirus-related strife between the two countries, as Torosyan – who has been repeatedly questioned why Georgia has managed with its outbreak so much more successfully than Armenia has – suggested that Georgia may be underreporting its statistics. The accusation angered Georgian health officials and Torosyan later apologized.
Watching the health situation go from bad to worse in Armenia – even the nation’s leader, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came down with the virus – many Georgians have called on their government to provide assistance to the neighboring country. In Samtskhe-Javakheti, the region of Georgian home to a large ethnic Armenian community, campaigns are underway to help Armenian clinics with medical supplies.
The Armenian Health Ministry had not issued an official response as of the time this post was published, but it had previously called for international assistance in dealing with coronavirus. Armenia has registered a total of 14,669 confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with 5,446 recoveries and 245 deaths.