Turkmenistan denies COVID-19 as holidays continue
Today in Turkmenistan, the holiday is the International Bicycle Day, it will be celebrated not only with a mass bike ride, but also with mass festivities. The day before, Turkmen Carpet Day was celebrated in the country. Meanwhile, many in the country have no time for dancing. Due to the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in the country lost their jobs and incomes, respectively. There are more and more patients, although officially, not a single case of coronavirus infection has been registered in Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan has initiated the International Bicycle Day, established in 2018. On this occasion, the International Union of Cyclists announced a decision to award the Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov a certificate of appreciation. In 2018, Turkmenistan, led by the president, entered the Guinness Book of Records for "the most massive cycling lesson." And in 2019 - for the longest collective parade along one line under the motto "Turkmenistan - Homeland of Prosperity".
Cycling in Turkmenistan is promoted at the state level. Even the Health Day, which is celebrated in the country on April 8, was marked by a bicycle march, in which more than 7 thousand cyclists took part. Public servants, students and high school students are attracted to mass actions. The population is forced to make monetary contributions to purchase bicycles and sportswear, Radio Azatlyk (the Turkmen service of Radio Liberty) said.
At the same time, the Turkmen authorities respond to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the need to maintain sanitary distance, that there is no coronavirus in the country, while receiving considerable assistance from international organizations to prevent COVID-19. On June 1, Ashgabat received an additional $ 500,000 from the US government through the Agency for International Development (USAID) to better communicate risks and efforts to prevent and control infections, the US Embassy in Ashgabat said.
The embassy recalls that "Turkmenistan did not report any confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders, but took measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and prepare for possible confirmed cases in the future." USAID will support campaigns to educate children, families, and pregnant and lactating mothers about hygiene and the importance of handwashing to prevent COVID-19 and acute respiratory infections.
In fairness, it is worth noting that the authorities of Turkmenistan in early February blocked the borders, primarily with Iran, then with all neighboring countries. Ashgabat stopped accepting flights, these functions were transferred to Turkmenabad, a city in the east of the country. All arrivals were subjected to the necessary, from the point of view of the authorities, inspection, which provided for 14- or 28-day quarantine if necessary. The already difficult rules of entry into the country were tightened even more. According to indirect data, several thousand people were not allowed into Turkmenistan. Along the way, the media began informing the public about safety measures that were in the nature of hygiene recommendations. At the same time, the wearing of medical masks was stopped - people who put on a protective mask were fined by the police "for disturbing public order." The authorities argued these actions as "suppressing panic among the population."
From the end of February, thermoscreening points were organized at the administrative borders of the regions: if someone had a fever, they were sent along the route: isolation point - quarantine - infectious diseases clinic. “Throughout this time, the authorities have denied even the hypothetical possibility of coronavirus penetrating into Turkmenistan. The term“ coronavirus ”has even disappeared in the media, but at the same time, sanitation of premises and public space, including urban transport, has intensified.
There is no talk of any propaganda of distance and other measures. Shopping centers, cinemas, stadiums, public transport with a large crowding of passengers continue to function normally. Moreover, the authorities ordered several national mass events to take place. And on May 9, a military parade was held in Ashgabat for the first time in many years.
"At the same time, restrictions were imposed on the broadcasting of foreign television channels, mainly Turkish, which talked about the development of the pandemic in Turkey. This caused some tension in society, since over one and a half million citizens of Turkmenistan were in Turkey at the time of border closure (according to other sources, 2 million 200 thousand).
"The policy of the authorities is based on the denial of the epidemic. This took the character of state doctrine and became an absolute imperative in foreign and domestic policy. Even representatives of international agencies, including UN agencies, in fact in hostage status, are forced to state that, “according to data provided by the government,” there are no COVID-19 diseases in Turkmenistan. One of the reasons for this line of government may be that the coronavirus epidemic hooked the country back in mid-January: the majority of the population was ill, and society has a stable collective immunity. It was at that time that there was a surge in mortality due to pneumonia. But even then, according to tradition, neither the number of deaths, nor the real reasons were called, "Turkmen expert Serdar Aitakov told Vestnik Kavkaza.
The consequence of the pandemic, despite its denial, was the fall in energy prices, which caused significant damage to the economy of the country, which has been in crisis since 2016. Massive unemployment, food shortages negatively affect the well-being of most citizens of Turkmenistan. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the population of the two largest regions of the country is experiencing the consequences of the devastating hurricane of late April-early May, which left thousands of families without housing, electricity, food, clean water. There were many dead, including from children. However, the authorities of the country did not recognize the fact of the natural disaster and its consequences until people went out to the square. This was the first action of discontent since the independence of Turkmenistan. The main challenge for the authorities remains the growing poverty of the vast majority of the population.