WHO expresses concern over pneumonia reports in “coronavirus-free” Turkmenistan

By bne IntelliNews July 15, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on July 15 it was "concerned" about pneumonia reports in Turkmenistan, which continues to claim that it has zero coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The statement came after a long-delayed 10-day visit to Turkmenistan. While Turkmenistan has adopted measures that appear to be aimed at preventing the spread of the disease, the authorities have continued to claim that a recorded spike in pneumonia cases was not a result of the novel coronavirus.

Independent reports have alleged that the coronavirus has already entered all provinces of the country. Numerous reports also pointed at coronavirus-caused deaths throughout the country. One of the latest death reports by Chronicles of Turkmenistan noted that a body of a health worker, who died of what appears to be the coronavirus, was handed over to her family wrapped in a plastic bag on July 6. The family members were also told to bury her without any ceremonies involving large groups of people. 

The WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, recommended the government adopt measures such as contact tracing "as if COVID-19 were already circulating."

"We are aware of and concerned of reports of acute respiratory disease or pneumonia," Smallwood said, while mentioning the government’s "recent activation of stronger measures" as part of its efforts to curb the potential spread of the virus in the country.

Turkmenistan started urging its citizens to start wearing masks during the WHO visit. It has also ordered trains to halt movement starting on July 16, until July 23.

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