Medical personnel in Arsakh’s Kashatagh district. NKR Ministry of Health 

Armenia has provided Nagorno Karabakh with Covid-19 test kits, but due to lacking local capacity laboratory analysis of the tests must be conducted in Yerevan, an official from Artsakh told Crisis Group last month before first cases of the viral infection were confirmed there. The report is part of Crisis Group’s “The COVID-19 Challenge in Post-Soviet Breakaway Statelets” paper released on May 6. 

Following Armenia’s declaration of the state of emergency over pandemic’s spread on March 16, Artsakh began restricting incoming and outgoing traffic and screened all arrivals for Covid-19. As part of the emergency measures, the military reported suspending leave and parental visits with servicemen. 

Between April 7, when first cases were confirmed, and as of May 7, a total of ten cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Artsakh, with six of those infected recovering and a total of 316 tests reportedly conducted, according to the local Ministry of Health. All of the cases were reported in Kashatagh and Shaumyan districts. Meantime, throughout Armenia the total number of cases surpassed 2,800, including over 40 fatalities and close to 1,200 recoveries.

As noted by the Crisis Group, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only international organization providing pandemic-related support in Nagorno Karabakh. The World Health Organization (WHO) among them does not operate in Artsakh due to objections from Azerbaijan.

Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs from France, Russia and the U.S. have sought to facilitate WHO involvement in Artsakh and Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov twice called his Azerbaijani counterpart to discuss the topic prior to the video conference between the Armenian and Azerbaijani ministers on April 21. But no further progress was reported.

According to the report, the mediators suggested establishing “a telephone connection between the WHO and Stepanakert to track the situation and potentially provide online training for health care workers.”