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Tatev Khachatryan

Armenia: Medical Masks 10-15 Times More Expensive; Scare Supplies of Medical Alcohol

While reported cases of COVID-19 are creeping up in Armenia, supplies of medical masks, high potency alcohol and alco-gel are few and far between in the country’s drugstores.

And prices for these items have shot up given the high demand.

A Hetq team of reporters visit the town of Etchmiadzin, now the epicenter of the virus in Armenia, to see firsthand what local drugstores have in stock and what they are charging customers.

The prices for masks, when they could be found, were 10-15 times more expensive than usual. In some drug stores, there was no medical alcohol and staff couldn’t say when they’d receive new supplies. Alco-gel was in relatively good supply.

In mid-February, when the novel coronavirus had not yet reached Armenia, Hetq investigated the Yerevan market for medical masks. Although they could be found in small quantities and not in all drugstores, the cost had already gone up by a factor of 2-4.

As of today, thirty COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Armenia. Several hundred people have been quarantined.

Twenty cases of the epidemic are linked to contact with Etchmiadzin residents. This has resulted in checkpoints along the road linking the Armavir town to the capital, Yerevan.

In Etchmiadzin, masks can be found only in one of the Alpha-Pharm chain’s stores. The cost is 250 drams (51cents) per mask. Prior to the virus outbreak, masks cost 20-50 drams.

Yesterday, the masks in the same drugstore chain in Yerevan were selling for 300 AMD. There are plenty of masks in the Alpha-Pharm pharmacy network.

Alco-gel can be found in some Alpha-Pharm pharmacies in Etchmiadzin, as in Yerevan, but it is also scarce.

It is also recommended to have medical alcohol for use as a disinfectant. By mixing it with glycerol, you can make alco-gel. In Etchmiadzin, there was only one drugstore with medical alcohol in the amount of 30ml per unit.

Throughout Armenia, there are only eight pharmacies in the Alpha-Pharm network selling medical alcohol in 30ml and 50ml units. 

There are no medical masks at the Natali Pharm network in Etchmiadzin at this time and it is not known when they will stock masks. As of yesterday, there were no masks at the Natalie Pharm’s Yerevan stores. 

Today, Natali Pharm stores in Etchmiadzin have only alco-gel and, in one store, medical alcohol in units of 250ml.

Medical masks are only carried by only one of the Gideon Richter chain of five drugstores in Yerevan we visited.  They cost 280 AMD. None carried medical alcohol.

Only one of the stores we visited had alco-gel.

We found nothing in the Tonus-Les chain of pharmacies in Yerevan. Only one drugstore mentioned that they would receive masks in the evening, but they did not know what they would cost.

It should be noted that at this moment the Armenian Government is discussing the issue of declaring a state of emergency.

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