Authorities in Turkmenistan are clearing out hundreds of people held in quarantine zones in what could be an attempt to hide suspected cases of coronavirus ahead of a visit by World Health Organization (WHO) experts.
More than 400 people placed in a quarantine area on the outskirts of Turkmenabat, the secretive Central Asian country’s second-largest city, located in the eastern Lebab region, are being transferred to small provincial hospitals and a psychiatric clinic.
The move follows media reports alleging that top authorities decided to temporarily transfer the sick from quarantine sites to hide coronavirus cases from a WHO team arriving in the country next week.
Turkmenistan has not reported any registered COVID-19 cases yet, but experts are skeptical, given the lack of transparency and independent media in the country.
Doctors in the country are not allowed to talk about the coronavirus, face masks are banned, and citizens are punished for talking about the global pandemic.
Meanwhile, the authorities have set up three quarantine zones around the country in a bid to prevent the spread of what officials called “infectious diseases.”
People with coronavirus symptoms are not being treated for the virus, and COVID-19 test results are unknown, even if they are performed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended the nonworking period in the country until May 11 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the country.
Putin made the announcement during a video conference with regional governors on April 28, saying that the peak of Russia’s coronavirus infections “has not passed yet.”
Russia has also imposed a partial lockdown on many regions, including Moscow, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has officially infected 93,558 people across the country. Among them, 867 have died.
Putin initially announced a nonworking week from March 28 to April 5 and later extended it until April 30, saying that salaries will be paid for that period.
On April 28, Putin ordered the government to “start preparing a wide-ranging national plan of action to normalize business activities, restore employment and people’s incomes, and economic growth.”
The Russian leader also instructed the government to come up with recommendations on gradually easing the coronavirus lockdown restrictions by May 5.
Later in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he had signed a decree extending the lockdown regime in the city, which has been hardest-hit by COVID-19, until May 11.
The governor of Pakistan’s second-most-populous province has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Imran Ismail, the governor of Sindh Province, announced on April 27 results from a test he took the previous day came back positive. “I have just been tested Covid 19 positive…. Inshallah will fight it out,” the 54-year-old governor wrote on Twitter.
Sindh Province, which includes the industrial and financial center of Karachi, has imposed a strict lockdown, while the rest of Pakistan is under a partial lockdown.
Pakistan has been divided over whether to ease coronavirus restrictions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in the country on the evening of April 24.
Health officials have warned that tens of thousands of people in Pakistan are ignoring advice to stay home during Ramadan, raising fears that the coronavirus pandemic will spread further.
Pakistan has registered 13,915 positive coronavirus cases and 292 deaths, according to official numbers.
A representative of the WHO in Tajikistan, where officials have not registered a single coronavirus case yet, says the Central Asian country must be ready for the “worst-case scenario.”
Galina Perfilyeva told RFE/RL on April 27 that although there was no coronavirus cases recorded officially in the former Soviet republic, Tajikistan may have people infected with the virus.
“I have always said that we are observing the situation in the world and we see that in many countries there is a big number of [coronavirus] cases that proceed without any symptoms and therefore nobody can say that everything is absolutely smooth in Tajikistan in that matter,” Perfilyeva said, adding that although initial test results on COVID-19 in the country were negative, the results of the latest tests that were supposed to be processed in a lab in London have been pending as Tajikistan and many other countries have closed air links due to the pandemic.
Perfilyeva came under fire last month after initially confirming the Tajik government’s position that the country remains free of the coronavirus.
But soon afterward she changed her tone, saying it was “impossible to conclusively” say that there were no coronavirus infections in Tajikistan.
Perfilyeva noted in the RFE/RL interview on April 27 that “the WHO’s goal is not to find the virus, but to help our colleagues to fight that virus.”
“It is clear that the [Central Asian] nations have not been ready for COVID-19 as they did not have equipment or hospital facilities,” Perfilyeva said.
She also said that WHO experts are expected to arrive in Tajikistan in May to assist in the prevention of the spread of the virus.
“Usually, when [the WHO] mission arrives to a country it provides technical assistance, attends facilities, assesses the situation…. As soon as the mission’s staff is confirmed, we will start outlining the plan of the mission’s activities in Tajikistan,” Perfilyeva said.
Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has signed a decree extending until May 10 the state of emergency in Bishkek, the capital, as well as the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad and adjacent districts, and in the Ata-Bash district of the Naryn region.
The initial state of emergency over the pandemic was announced in the Kyrgyz cities and districts on March 25 until April 15. It was later prolonged until April 30.
The latest figures in Kyrgyzstan are 708 coronavirus cases, including eight deaths.
The biggest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been registered in Kazakhstan, where health authorities said on April 28 that the number of such cases reached 2,982, including 25 deaths.
In Uzbekistan, as of April 28, the number of coronavirus cases was reported as 1,924, including eight deaths.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.