ASHGABAT -- Authorities in Turkmenistan, where the government has yet to officially register a single case of coronavirus, have extended school holidays indefinitely amid reports on the ground of a spike in deaths believed to be caused by COVID-19.
"The situation with the virus in Ashgabat is very bad. People who are infected with the virus are constantly being brought to the hospitals. About one of every two are sick with it," an Ashgabat-based health official told RFE/RL.
Some schools opened on September 1, but students were immediately told that as of September 4, they will be back on holiday. Schools for older students didn't even open, and aren't expected to until next month at the earliest, according to one official.
“It is now being recommended that classes should be conducted online in secondary schools from October 1,” the Ashgabat-based education official, who asked not to be named, said.
Meanwhile, funeral parlors in Ashgabat are said to be overwhelmed with work as dozens die of COVID-19 each day.
Workers at funeral parlors told RFE/RL that because of the rapid increase of daily COVID-19 deaths, the price of caskets has dramatically increased in recent weeks, adding that many of those who do not have enough money are having to bury their loved ones in plastic bags.
Local authorities across the country have been urging families and religious clerics to ask those who have lost someone to refrain from organizing post-burial gatherings and prayers in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
In addition, all public events, weddings, birthdays, and other gatherings have been banned across the country. No official reason was given for the ban.