COVID-19: WHO Mission To ‘Coronavirus-Free’ Turkmenistan Reportedly Canceled

Central Asia

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly canceled its expected visit to Turkmenistan, the only country in Central Asia that officially has not reported coronavirus cases within its borders, after failing to receive an invitation.

The independent Gundogar news website cited a representative of the UN agency on May 5 as saying that the mission visit, currently in neighboring Tajikistan and scheduled to arrive in Ashgabat later this week, could not take place since the prerequisite for a mission is an invitation from the host government interested in WHO assistance.

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.

In Tajikistan, where authorities confirmed for the first time coronavirus cases on April 30, the latest number of coronavirus cases in the country is 230, including three deaths.

In neighboring Uzbekistan, as of May 5 the number of coronavirus cases was reported at 2,189, including 10 deaths.

In Kyrgyzstan, the latest figures are 843 cases with 11 deaths.

The largest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been officially registered in Kazakhstan, where the latest figures on May 5 were 4,160 cases with 29 deaths


Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has replaced his health minister just five days after the Central Asian nation registered its first official coronavirus cases.

Rahmon said on May 5 that he had signed presidential decrees transferring Nasim Olimzoda “to another job” and appointing Jamoliddin Abdullozoda as the new health minister.

The decrees have been sent to lawmakers for approval, he added.

It was unclear why Olimzoda, who had been serving as health minister since January 2017, had been dismissed.

Abdullozoda is a 54-year-old career doctor who had been heading Dushanbe’s Istiqlol medical center since March 2017.

The Health Ministry said on May 5 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country is 293, including five deaths.

Those totals came on the eve of a visit by the World Health Organization and just six days after the country admitted its first 15 cases following months of reporting no cases of the virus in Tajikistan. 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.