Secretive Turkmenistan has approved a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to the country as it grapples with coronavirus infections that the government says don’t officially exist.
A spokesperson from the UN health body told RFE/RL that a long-delayed mission to the Central Asian state is expected to occur in early July.
“The mission has been approved and WHO and the Turkmenistan government have worked in the past weeks to overcome logistical challenges to reach the country,” the spokesperson said. “We are hoping to get the WHO team on the ground in early July.”
In early May, the WHO was forced to cancel a much-anticipated visit to Turkmenistan after failing to receive an official invitation.
Turkmenistan has not reported any COVID-19 cases, even as there are signs that the pandemic is sweeping through the population.
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.
Medics who were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation told RFE/RL this week that the outbreak is getting “out of control,” with new cases being recorded in almost all regions.
Meanwhile, the authorities have set up several quarantine zones around the country and taken other measures in a bid to prevent the spread of what officials call “infectious diseases.”
Borders were shut down, flyers distributed urging people to stay vigilant against unnamed respiratory illnesses, and regular disinfections began of public buildings and bus stops.
Authoritarian Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed countries, with litte or no independent media or freedom of information.
Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry says the government in Bishkek will decide on June 25 whether to declare a state of emergency in two major cities and two provinces due to the resurgent coronavirus outbreak.
Deputy Health Minister Madamin Karatayev said on June 25 that the government was particularly concerned about Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s second-biggest city of Osh, and the provinces of Osh and Chu.
Under the previous state of emergency that ended in May, Kyrgyzstan locked down several cities and districts — including the capital Bishkek, where a curfew had been imposed.
Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov missed a June 24 parade in Moscow commemorating the end of World War II because two other people aboard his flight to the Russian capital tested positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival.
Jeenbekov’s office told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service that the head of the presidential office’s foreign-policy unit, Daniyar Sydykov, and a bodyguard had tested positive for the coronavirus.
On June 25, Jeenbekov’s office said that the COVID-19 test he took on his trip was negative. But it said Jeenbekov still would self-isolate and work remotely.
Karatayev said on June 25 that authorities also are considering temporarily closing the shared headquarters of the president and parliament in Bishkek.
According to a global tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University, Kyrgyz authorities had confirmed a total of 3,726 coronavirus infections in the country as of June 25 — including 43 deaths.
Ukraine’s health minister has said that more hospitals will open to coronavirus cases as the institutions initially chosen to accept patients no longer have enough beds to cope with a surge in infections.
Ukraine has nearly 40,000 confirmed cases and over 1,000 deaths.
Menwhile, The WHO’s Europe region continues to report close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 new deaths daily.
WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said on June 25 that warnings about the risk of a resurgence of the virus as countries ease restriction measures have “now become a reality.”
“Thirty countries/territories have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks,” he said.
The 11 countries facing accelerated transmission are: Armenia, Sweden, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Kosovo.
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