WHO looks for coronavirus 'brought by wind from Aral Sea' to Turkmenistan
Russia's Embassy in Turkmenistan stopped receiving citizens from July 13. The reasons are not reported but it is obviously related to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. In turn, the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat announced an unfavorable epidemiological situation in Turkmenistan, whose authorities deny the spread of COVID-19 in the country, and asked its citizens to refrain from traveling there.
Now the World Health Organization (WHO) mission, which arrived in Ashgabat last week, must deliver its verdict. In case the virus is detected, a version has already been prepared - the coronavirus was brought by wind from the Aral Sea.
The day before, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov discussed cooperation in the epidemiological sphere with Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev. A telephone conversation took place at the initiative of the Turkmen side. Berdimuhamedov congratulated Nazarbayev on his birthday and wished him good health, saying that "Turkmenistan is very happy for the recovery of Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev, who, thanks to his will and spirit, was able to overcome the disease and return to creative work for the good of Kazakhstan." Nursultan Nazarbayev had the asymptomatic form of novel coronavirus. He was forced to self-isolate.
Berdimuhamedov expressed interest in the collaboration of scientists of the two countries to determine the causes of the occurrence and spread of coronavirus. The Turkmen side believes that "viruses can be carried by air," especially in connection with the Aral Sea environmental problem. The Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan announced this version when the WHO mission arrived. According to their version, the bacillus could be brought by winds from the Aral Sea.
The theory of "a new type of coronavirus being spread through tiny aerosol droplets that have been kept in the air for a long time" was also presented by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov to WHO experts. Doctors arrived in the country on July 6 to study the situation on coronavirus. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry's press release notes that "many years of research by Turkmen doctors, ecologists, hydrometeorologists and other specialists confirm that substances hazardous to human health, including viruses, can be carried by air currents, especially in a complex ecological environment of Central Asia". According to Turkmen experts, air masses formed in the zone of ecological disaster caused by the drying up of the Aral Sea are particularly dangerous, which have an extremely negative impact on the nature, climate, and health of people living in the Aral Sea region and far beyond its borders. "Dust and salt storms that carry particularly harmful substances from the bottom of the dried-up Aral Sea spread for thousands of kilometers and pose a real danger to human life,” the Foreign Ministry said.
It's not known whether WHO experts will support this theory. They need to get acquainted with the situation. According to Radio Azatlyk, doctors examined a multidisciplinary clinic and an infectious diseases hospital in Turkmenabad, but there were no patients with COVID-19 or pneumonia in the medical facility.
Turkmen expert Serdar Aitakov told Vestnik Kavkaza that people in Ashgabat discuss more frequent cases of deaths. They say that people die right on the streets. "Doctors told about crowded hospitals and deaths from pneumonia. Sounding any other diagnoses is strictly prohibited. When the WHO mission arrived, the president went on vacation and sent the government on vacation. Perhaps the situation will change soon, and the authorities will finally recognize the threat of a pandemic and take appropriate measures, including social distance and universal quarantine. However, the entire history of the authorities' behavior in crisis situations suggests that it is more important for them to "save face" than to acknowledge the problem, and therefore, adequately solve it," Aitakov believes.
The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat issued a warning about the epidemiological situation in Turkmenistan. "Turkmenistan has not officially acknowledged any cases of COVID-19 within its borders and may be disinclined to do so if cases were confirmed," the diplomatic service said. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of local citizens with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 undergoing testing and being placed in quarantine in infectious diseases hospitals. Those wishing to visit Turkmenistan, the U.S. Embassy asks to refrain from traveling and warns that tourism to Awaza has been restricted through August 31st as a precautionary measure related to COVID-19.
The consular departments of Russia's Embassy in Ashgabat and Turkmenabad stopped receiving citizens. Documents can be submitted remotely, there's information available on the embassy website. Reasons are not reported. Russian diplomats are asked to be sympathetic to the temporary measures.