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COVID-19: 'Coronavirus-Free' Turkmenistan Imposes Restrictions


Kyrgyz migrant workers wait at Sheremetyevo International Airport ahead of a repatriation flight from Moscow to Bishkek on May 17.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 315,000 with more than 4.7 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Central Asia

Authorities in Turkmenistan, where no coronavirus cases have been officially reported, have approved measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the tightly controlled Central Asian state.

State media reports say that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on May 15 approved the government's plan on "Turkmenistan's preparedness to stand against the pandemic and ways to rapidly react to it."

Berdymukhammedov also approved a plan to impose restrictions on mass gatherings and ban swimming in the Caspian Sea, including in the area of the Avaza resort and near the city of Turkmenbashi. It is not clear why the restrictions were imposed only there.

Turkmenistan remains the only country in the Central Asian region that has not officially admitted a single coronavirus case.

Experts are skeptical of the claim that there are no cases given the lack of transparency and the absence of an independent media in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working on possible visit to Turkmenistan to assess the situation on the ground of one of the world's most tightly controlled countries.

Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov has said his country is ready to host the WHO mission.

In Kyrgyzstan, the government has said that because of the cost of implementing measures to slow down the virus spread, financial allocations for several state entities will be cut.

Deputy Finance Minister Ulukbek Karymshakov said on May 18 that funds allocated for the needs of the State Agency for Youth, Physical Culture, and Sports will be cut by 70 percent.

The agency's director, Kanat Amankulov, said the move will negatively affect the country's sports sector and weaken its presentation at international tournaments and championships.

Health authorities said on May 18 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country reached 1,216, including 14 deaths.

In oil-rich Kazakhstan, authorities in the country's largest city, Almaty, said on May 18 that boutiques, beauty salons, dry cleaners, and restaurants at shopping malls will resume operations as of May 25.

The country on May 11 lifted the state of emergency imposed over the virus but said all the restrictions will be lifted gradually and differently in regions and cities due to situations there.

On May 18, Kazakh health authorities said the number of coronavirus cases in the country was 6,440, including 34 deaths.

In Tajikistan, officials said on May 17 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was 1,524, including 39 deaths.

Tajikistan did not officially register a coronavirus case until April 30, just ahead of a mission by the WHO to the country.

Still, many in the country doubt the data and believe the government has been underreporting the situation.

In Uzbekistan, some domestic railways and air transportation routes resumed operations on May 18.

The latest official data in the region's most populous nation of 32 million says 2,762 coronavirus cases were registered with 12 deaths.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek services
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