Turkmen state employees have been ordered to pay for mandatory, and expensive, coronavirus tests out of their paychecks, a policy order that comes even as health authorities continue to insist the country has had no coronavirus cases.
The reason for the government’s order, issued on August 6, was unclear. Several employees of state-funded entities told RFE/RL that the order coincided with monthly paychecks, which will make it easier for the government to deduct the cost of the tests from wages.
The employees spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution by state authorities.
The cost of the coronavirus test in Turkmenistan is the equivalent of $28.50, the individuals said, which for many in Turkmenistan is a significant amount.
Turkmen officials’ insistence that the country has no coronavirus cases has elicited sustained skepticism. All of the countries surrounding the Central Asian nation have reported cases and deaths.
Local hospitals, meanwhile, have reportedly been overwhelmed with patients diagnosed with pneumonia symptoms.
Some of the patients and medical personnel have died.
In some parts of the authoritarian country, so-called quarantine zones have been established, while some industrial facilities are being shut down.
In July, the World Health Organization said that visiting investigators had concerns about reports of pneumonia. The head of the mission, Catherine Smallwood, advised the Turkmen government to activate “the critical public health measures in Turkmenistan, as if COVID-19 was circulating.”
In neighboring Uzbekistan, meanwhile, the government announced on August 7 that entrance exams to all universities this year will be held at open sports stadiums in an effort to enforce social-distancing regulations.
The exams will be held twice a day starting in the beginning of September and will timed when the outside air temperatures are suitable.
As of August 7, the number of coronavirus cases in Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most-populous nation with 32 million people — was 28,809, including 179 deaths.
In Tajikistan, the number of cases was officially reported as 7,665, including 62 deaths, as of August 6. However, an investigative report by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service last month revealed that the real number of fatalities from COVID-19 might be in the hundreds.
In Kyrgyzstan, health officials said on August 7 that the number of registered coronavirus cases in the country had reached 39,162, of whom 30,764 recovered and 1,451 died.
In Kazakhstan, as of August 7, the number of coronavirus case was reported as 96,922, including 1,058 deaths.
Kazakh authorities said earlier that they planned to add patients who died of acute pneumonia with COVID-19 symptoms to the coronavirus death toll as of August 1. But officials later postponed the move to an unspecified later date.
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.