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COVID-19: Uzbek Medics Accuse Government Of Breaking Promises; Romanians Now Stopped From Leaving Hospital

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A Romanian medic visits patients infected with COVID-19 at an infectious-diseases hospital in Timisoara.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 610,000, with nearly 15 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

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

Central Asia

A group of medical personnel working at the ambulance service center in Tashkent have complained to President Shavkat Mirziyoev about what they called the government's "failure" to increase their salaries during the coronavirus pandemic, a move promised by the president since March.

In an open letter addressed to Mirziyoev posted on Telegram, the medical workers said that "despite being on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus, we are not tested for COVID-19 ourselves, and not fully equipped with protective garments."

The letter also says that compensation promised by Mirziyoev to medical personnel infected with the virus have not been paid, while the number of physicians and nurses not receiving the increased funds is on the rise.

"We have been working [with COVID-19 patients] for four months, but our salaries have not been increased and there were cases when our wages were delayed," the letter says.

"Also, we, the medical personnel, had to be tested for coronavirus once in every 14 days, but in the last four months we were tested only once. We may have contracted the virus and passed it on other people while walking around, as our bodies may have developed immunity to it, but we do not know," it adds. "After all, we are human beings and we must be with our families. For how long shall we live in fear, anxiety, and suspicion?"

On July 20, Mirziyoev ordered mayors of cities and districts to personally monitor the situation in each hospital around the clock, adding that they were responsible for creating conditions for the nonstop operation of hospitals.

Mirziyoev also said that 80 percent of lethal COVID-19 cases had been registered in Tashkent, the capital.

As of July 21, the number of coronavirus cases in Central Asia's most populous country of 32 million was 17,590, including 91 deaths.

In neighboring Kazakhstan, Health Minister Aleksei Tsoi said on July 21 that the coronavirus situation in the country had started stabilizing after a spike in cases.

According to Tsoi, the number of people who recovered from the coronavirus in the last two weeks increased 60 percent, while the number of new coronavirus patients per day decreased from 4 percent to 2.5 percent.

Tsoi asked the government to allocate an additional 47 billion tenges ($113 million) for coronavirus testing.

As of July 21, the number of cases in Kazakhstan was reported at 73,468, including 585 deaths.

In Kyrgyzstan, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov said on July 21 that construction on two new hospitals, each with a capacity of 100 patients, will start in Bishkek and the second-largest city, Osh, this week.

Boronov also said that all buildings in the regions that aren't in use must be turned into hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

The Health Ministry said on July 21 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country reached 28,251, of whom 14,776 patients recovered and 1,079 people died.

In Tajikistan, as of July 20 the number of coronavirus cases was officially reported as 6,921, including 57 deaths.

However, an investigative report by RFE/RL last month revealed that the real number of lethal cases of COVID-19 in the country might be several hundred.

Turkmenistan is the only country in the region that has not officially registered any coronavirus cases, but RFE/RL correspondents have reported that local hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients with pneumonia symptoms, some of whom, including medical personnel, have died.

In some parts of the country, so-called quarantine zones have been established and some industrial facilities are being shut down, RFE/RL correspondents report.

Romania

A new law has come into effect to enforce the mandatory quarantine or hospitalization for those infected with the coronavirus, after thousands of sick patients were allowed to walk out of hospitals or not be treated at all.

EU-member Romania had stemmed the spread of COVID-19 under a strict two-month lockdown, but cases have jumped since it was lifted in mid-May and reached record-high levels this month, with a peak of 994 new infections and 36 fatalities on July 21.

The new law was fast-tracked in parliament after the country's Constitutional Court on July 2 ruled that authorities could no longer enforce mandatory quarantine or hospitalized care based on government decrees, and that such containment measures could only be taken through a parliamentary legislation.

Following the ruling, almost 1,000 people who had tested positive were released from hospital at their own request -- even against medical advice -- between July 2-20, while almost 3,700 infected people were not hospitalized at all, data released late on July 20 showed.

At least one patient released from hospital at his own request subsequently died of COVID-19 at home, while several others were readmitted to intensive-care units.

"We need to remind Romanians that, as a result of the court's decision, more than 900 patients were let go at their own request and more than 3,000 of those registered as infected were not even admitted to hospital," Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, who has repeatedly criticized the ruling, told a cabinet meeting on July 21.

The government has yet to estimate the impact of the legislative void on the growing number of infections, Orban said.

Health Minister Nelu Tataru on July 20 warned that Romania could see a spike to more than 1,000 new daily cases in the following days and that the government could decide to quarantine specific outbreaks in companies or neighborhoods.

The caseload spike also came against a backdrop of multiplying conspiracy theories peddled online and in the streets.

In Bucharest, a few hundred so called "coronaskeptics" -- holding religious icons, the national flag, and signs that read "I believe in GOD, not in COVID" -- frequently protest against what they call a "sanitary dictatorship."

Romania, with a population of almost 20 million, has to date reported more than 39,000 coronavirus infections and more than 2,100 deaths.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Romanian, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek services, Digi24.ro, Hotnews.ro, AFP, and Reuters
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