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COVID-19: Armenian PM Admits 'Bitter Truth'; Hundreds Attend Book Fair In Moscow

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A woman wearing a protective face mask walks in central Yerevan.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 393,000 with more than 6.7 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Armenia

Armenian's prime minister says that nearly 200 people who need hospitalization after being infected with the coronavirus are waiting for hospital beds as the country’s health-care system has been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

“I have an obligation to tell you the whole truth about everything, especially about the situation with the coronavirus, no matter how bitter this truth may be.... Today, there are about 200 people with coronavirus who are waiting for their turn for hospitalization,” Nikol Pashinian said during a daily coronavirus briefing on June 6.

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Pashinian said that one COVID-19 patient had died at home while waiting to be hospitalized. Two patients, meanwhile, died at hospital due to a shortage of intensive-care beds at the facilities where they had been receiving treatment.

The Health Ministry said on June 6 that the number of coronavirus cases in the South Caucasus country of about 3 million rose by 547 to 12,364 in the past 24 hours.

The ministry also reported seven new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the official death toll to 190. That figure does not include the deaths of 69 other people who were also infected with the coronavirus. The ministry says that the patients’ deaths were primarily caused by other, preexisting conditions.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Armenia has grown steadily since the government began easing in mid-April a nationwide lockdown imposed in late March.

All sectors of the Armenian economy were allowed to reopen by May 10.

The new spike in coronavirus infections prompted the authorities to make wearing face masks mandatory in all public places.

Pashinian himself has been infected with the virus and continues to run the government from self-isolation.

Russia

Hundreds of people attended an outdoor book fair in Moscow’s Red Square on June 6, though some publishing houses decided to stay away, citing health risks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s ban on public gatherings continues, but authorities gave permission to hold the annual book fair under tight restrictions.

Visitation to the bookstalls is limited to 6,000 people a day, divided into five two-hour shifts. All the shoppers had to apply for permission and receive QR codes for admittance.

Organizers implemented numerous other measures to stem the spread of the virus -- with chairs spaced 1 meter apart and temperature checks at the entrance.

Some independent publishers refused to take part because of heath concerns.

"We don't want to put our employees and our authors, as well as our readers, at risk," said Pavel Podkosov, director general of the Alpina Non-Fiction publishing house, which lost up to 60 percent of its income due to the lockdown compared with the same period last year.

Large public events are still banned in Moscow and most lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least June 14. The state-organized book fair was able to go ahead as Red Square is controlled by the federal government.

Russia has almost 450,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,500 official deaths as of June 6, the world's third-biggest number after the United States and Brazil.

The annual book fair was attended by 300,000 people last year.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Reuters, and AP
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