Hospitals are being inundated with patients showing acute COVID-19 symptoms in Turkmenistan, the only country in Central Asia where no coronavirus cases have been officially registered.
RFE/RL correspondents in the tightly controlled country said medical personnel at hospitals in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, said on September 3 that the situation had been worsening over the past three weeks and that the number of fatalities had been on the rise as well.
In a sign of the deteriorating situation, medical personnel complained that they were being forced against their will to work in quarantine zones for two-week stints while having to pay from their own pockets for personal protection equipment.
In some cases, experienced nurses said they were barred from leaving quarantine zones for more than two months.
Turkmenistan’s government still clings to its narrative that the country has no cases of coronavirus — even though practically no one believes the claim.
Many people say they prefer to stay home for treatment, fearing that they may be infected with the coronavirus while staying at hospitals that are overwhelmed with patients with COVID-19 symptoms.
The bodies of those who have died of COVID-19-like lung diseases are being delivered to their relatives in special plastic bags and the number of fresh graves across the country is increasing exponentially.
The World Health Organization on August 7 expressed concerns over the increase of atypical pneumonia cases in Turkmenistan and called on Ashgabat to allow it to organize independent coronavirus tests in the country.
Armenia’s parliament has approved a bill allowing the government to continue to enforce coronavirus-related restrictions and rules after lifting a state of emergency declared in March.
The bill — passed in the first reading on September 4 — involves amendments to several Armenian laws.
They will allow authorities to impose nationwide or local lockdowns, seal off communities hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, close the country’s borders, and isolate people infected with the virus. The authorities can also ban or restrict public gatherings.
The government drafted the bill to avoid extending the state of emergency again on September 11.
Deputies from two parliamentary opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia, voted against the bill, saying the government was hastily pushing it through parliament without a proper debate.
The two parties had for months criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government for repeatedly prolonging the emergency rule.
Some senior opposition figures had said the government wasn’t lifting the emergency rule in order to keep in place a coronavirus-related ban on street protests.
The government lifted the ban last month but set strict physical distancing requirements for organizers and participants of rallies.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases in Armenia has shrunk by more than half since a peak in mid-July.
Authorities said in the morning on September 4 that 190 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
It brings the total tally to 44,461 in the country of about 3 million.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Turkmen and Armenian services
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