“Gundogar”: the WHO mission did not get an invitation from Turkmenistan

Last week the mission of independent WHO experts was scheduled to visit Turkmenistan and Tajikistan where, according to official statistics, not a single case of coronavirus has been confirmed.

WHO experts arrived in the neighbouring Central Asia country of Tajikistan on 1 May, 2020 from Germany. The aircraft operated by Somon Air transported Tajikistan nationals who had got stuck in Europe along with humanitarian aid, including 3,6 tons of hygiene and personal protection items and medications for HIV positive patients, according to Radio “Ozodi”. The day before the mission’s arrival Tajikistan’s authorities acknowledged the coronavirus cases in the country.

The WHO experts did not visit Turkmenistan.

On 22 April, 2020 Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry hosted a briefing with officials of international  organizations in attendance. Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov refuted accusations that the Turkmen authorities are covering up confirmed cases of coronavirus and invited representatives of international organizations to visit the quarantine centre.

On 29 April, 2020 Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, asked Director of Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) Anna Popova  to render assistance to the mission in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan which “give credence” to Russia.

On 3 May, 2020 the website “Gundogar” with a reference to a UN employee in Ashgabat reported that the WHO mission had not received any invitation from Turkmenistan.

– The invitation from the local government which seeks to render assistance to the WHO is a pre-requisite for the mission’s visit. Tajikistan did send such an invitation but as usual, it is impossible to make arrangements with Turkmenistan, – the source of the news outlet said.

On 1 May, 2020 Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry hosted an online meeting bringing together Turkmen diplomats and officials from the Healthcare Ministry with Kluge. The website of the agency reports that “the interlocutors highlighted that the measures undertaken to prevent the spread of the novel virus in Turkmenistan are timely”.

On 3 May, 2020 Paulina Karwowska, the WHO Representative and Head of Country Office, told RIA Novosti that she had visited two quarantine zones in Turkmenabat and Turkmenbashi.

“We have familiarized ourselves with the procedures and measures undertaken by Turkmenistan to prevent the imported cases of coronavirus COVID-19. We had an opportunity to meet the staff and the administration of both facilities as well as people in the quarantine zone in the city of Turkmenabad. These centres play an important role in treating patients in a timely manner and isolating those who have tested positive, thus curbing further spread of the virus”, – Karwowska said.

When asked how the WHO Country Office in Ashgabat assesses the COVID-19 situation, Karwowska said that she relies on Turkmenistan’s healthcare authorities in this matter.

“We are relying on Turkmenistan’s healthcare authorities to report confirmed cases and we have been notified of such cases so far”, – she said.

Later that day the UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan Elena Panova told in an interview to the news agency “Trend” that the Turkmen authorities together with the UN organizations had designed the draft National Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to combat coronavirus, which is expected to be approved by the government. Previously, in an interview to BBC Panova also said that the UN relied on data provided by the Turkmen authorities.

It has not been specified when the WHO officials visited the quarantine zone. According to correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan”, the quarantine campsite in Turkmenbashi was destroyed as a result of the hurricane, which hit the region on 27 April, 2020.

It remains unclear whether the visit of the WHO experts has been postponed or WHO officials have been satisfied by the data provided by Paulina Karwowska and Elena Panova.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan