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COVID-19 pandemic in Turkmenistan

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COVID-19 pandemic in Turkmenistan
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2

There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases[1] in Turkmenistan. The government has worked to control information about the virus, and experts suspect that it may be spreading in the country unreported.[2][3]

Turkmenistan is a notoriously opaque state, purposefully isolated by an authoritarian regime led by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Independent media in the country is virtually nonexistent so reporting about the current situation is difficult due to the inability to access and confirm reliable information from the country.[4]

Prevention[edit source | edit]

On 31 January, Turkmenistan Airlines announced the suspension of flights to Bangkok and Beijing[5] and took out charter flights of Turkmen citizens there.

On 29 February, Turkmenistan began refusing the entry of citizens from countries affected by the virus. On 5 March three foreign travellers, two of them diplomats of an Arab country, were denied entry when they flew from Almaty, Kazakhstan. Their flight was diverted to Türkmenabat and after arriving at Ashgabat, they were all put on a flight to Istanbul.[6]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all international flights to Turkmenistan will be diverted to Turkmenabat International Airport, where the travelers were tested

Starting in March, in order to prevent the importation and spread of coronavirus infection, all aircraft arriving in Turkmenistan from abroad were redirected to the Turkmenabat International Airport.[7] Passengers arriving from outside of Turkmenistan were examined for signs of the virus. A delivery mechanism has been established if necessary for patients in an infectious diseases hospital. The airport medical center is equipped with personal protective equipment. After passing a medical examination, the plane, together with passengers on board, leaves for Ashgabat. Departures from Turkmenistan were carried out from Ashgabat International Airport.

Eventually, international flights were cancelled.[8] Those authorized solely for diplomatic, official, humanitarian purposes are allowed to enter the territory of Turkmenistan.[9] Most foreign airlines canceled their flights to Turkmenistan due to significant passengers unloading.[clarification needed] Those who wish to visit Turkmenistan must have a certificate of absence of coronavirus with them.[10]

Around the large settlements of Turkmenistan, including the capital city Ashgabat, additional control points have been created. Before entering large cities and towns, the body temperature of drivers or passengers of vehicles is measured using infrared thermometers. This precaution also applies to passengers on all domestic flights.[10]

The Football Federation of Turkmenistan suspended for an indefinite period all tournaments under its auspices, including the 2020 Ýokary Liga.[11] It resumed on 19 April.[12][13][14][15][16] Turkmenistan Futsal League resumes 2 June.[17][18]

Turkmenistan has evacuated citizens from countries infected with coronavirus like China, Russia, Turkey and Belarus.[19][20][21]

The government of Turkmenistan has restricted freight transport during April due to COVID-19.[22]

Reporters Without Borders reported that the government of Turkmenistan had banned the word "coronavirus" and that people could be arrested for wearing masks or discussing the pandemic.[23][24] The organization later corrected their report, clarifying that the word itself was not banned, but maintained that it had been removed from informational brochures and that the government was restricting information about the virus and providing "very one-sided information".[25] According to Chronicles of Turkmenistan, state media did not begin reporting on the measures that had been taken until 25 March.[26]

During the pandemic, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow advised burning the medicinal herb harmala to fight diseases, though it has not been scientifically investigated as a treatment for coronavirus and he did not explicitly mention COVID-19.[27][28]

There is concern about economic problems in Turkmenistan caused by the pandemic, given the importance of trade with China to the country's economy.[23] Turkmenportal reported that in Turkmenistan, an import substitution industrialization program has been operating for several years, domestic entrepreneurs and companies in the country produce a sufficient number of products and medicines in a wide range.[29][30]

On 3 April, President Berdimuhamedow ordered to revise the state budget,[31] revise plans for the construction of new buildings,[32] take measures to support transport complex agencies,[33] create an adequate supply of essential goods, and instructed to urgently develop measures to support private enterprises in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.[34]

Sporting events were held on 7 April to celebrate World Health Day;[2] Turkmenportal reported that "At a time when the situation with coronavirus remains tense in many countries of the world, in Turkmenistan thanks to timely measures, a calm epidemiological situation has been ensured."[35][36][37]

On 9 April Turkmenistan set up medical special groups to control public health in order to prevent COVID-19.[38] All citizens of Turkmenistan will be checked for coronavirus.[39]

"The sanitary and epidemiological situation in Turkmenistan is stable and under control," said President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, speaking on 10 April at an extraordinary summit of the Turkic Council.[40][41]

Border checkpoint in Turkmenistan were equipped with disinfection facilities.[42] The country has a clear system of sanitary and phytosanitary control, veterinary supervision, teams work at all checkpoints across the state border, which include specialists from the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, and other relevant state bodies. Their main task is to carry out a set of measures to ensure a high level of sanitation and hygiene, disinfection, disinfection of territories and other areas.[40]

On 22 April, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Raşit Meredow said that there were no confirmed cases of infection with the coronavirus COVID-19 in the country. Otherwise, Turkmenistan would report an infection to the World Health Organization. "We are not hiding anything, we are open," the diplomat said, noting that Turkmenistan is responsible for the obligations assumed as a member of the UN.[43] Rashid Meredov suggested that his foreign colleagues visit the quarantine center in Lebap Region and make sure there is no pandemic. Turkmenistan has three border quarantine zones (Turkmenbashi, Garabogaz and Lebap Province) for detecting COVID-19.[44]

In a telephone conversation with the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres[45] the President of Turkmenistan proposes to open a dialogue on transport issues within the framework of the UN in the context of the coronavirus pandemic[46] and said that "Turkmenistan is ready to provide its experience and opportunities to restore the global economy under the auspices of the UN".[47]

On 27 April, Paulina Karwowska, Head of the WHO Country Office in Turkmenistan, praised the work of the Government of Turkmenistan aimed at preventing coronavirus. She noted that Turkmenistan is working effectively to counter COVID-19 and prevent the spread of the virus in the country.[48][49][50]

On 9 May, a military parade and festive celebrations in honor of the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War Two was held in spite of the virus.[51][52]

In May, the Russia-24 television channel released a documentary film by VGTRK special correspondent Anna Afanasyeva entitled "COVID-19. Medical history-2". A significant part of the airtime in it was devoted to the epidemiological situation in Turkmenistan. "As the whole world continues to struggle with COVID-19, Turkmenistan remains an oasis in the desert of viruses. Officially, this is the only state in the post-Soviet space that has bypassed the infection", Anna Afanasyeva said in the report. Ogulmyahri Geldiyeva, director of the Information Center of the Ministry of Health of Turkmenistan, spoke about the experience of Turkmenistan, saying that the virus had bypassed the country, on a direct video link with the Russia-24 channel.[53][54]

On 3 June, Turkmenistan solemnly celebrated World Bicycle Day.[55][56] The mass bike ride was attended by 7400 people. On this day, a mass bike ride was supported in foreign capitals: Brussels, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, Ankara, Tbilisi, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Bucharest, Abu Dhabi, as well as in the cities of Dubai (UAE), Turkestan (Kazakhstan), Istanbul (Turkey).[57][58]

On 16 June, Turkmenistan reportedly locked down two major hospitals in Turkmenabat after a nurse tested positive for COVID-19.[59][verification needed]

On June 27, 2020, Human Rights Watch said that Turkmenistan authorities are putting public health in danger by denying an apparent COVID-19 outbreak.[60]

On July 8, it was announced that Turkmenistan would purchase antiviral drugs from Russia.[61][62]

WHO mission[edit source | edit]

On July 6, a WHO mission arrived in Turkmenabat from Frankfurt am Main on a charter flight with Turkmenistan Airlines.[63] On this day Neytralny Turkmenistan[64] newspaper with a link to the Information Center of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan reported that in Turkmenistan, an increased dust content in the atmospheric air was recorded, which is unfavorable for human health, namely for the respiratory system. The website recommended that in order to reduce the natural and exogenous effects due to a possible change in the air composition and increase in the content of pathogenic substances in it, employees of the healthcare system, retail outlets, public transport and other service workers should use personal protective equipment for the upper respiratory tract (surgical masks). Neytralny Turkmenistan also recommended masks for people with chronic diseases, and encouraged people to wash their hands and practice good hygiene.[65]

On July 10, 2020, a meeting of experts from the advisory and technical mission of the WHO Regional Office for Europe with the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan[66][67]. The head of the WHO country office, Paulina Karvowska, expressed gratitude to the Government of Turkmenistan on the part of the WHO leadership for the coordinated organization of the visit of the WHO / Europe mission to Turkmenistan and comprehensive support. It was noted that Turkmenistan’s efforts to counter COVID-19, including the proposal to establish an international Council of Medical Scientists and join the country in The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), are very significant[68].

References[edit source | edit]

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