TURKMENABAT, Turkmenistan -- Authorities in Turkmenistan's eastern region of Lebap have instructed employees of state organizations, schools, medical institutions, and schoolchildren to carry personal medicine boxes with them containing, among other items, bottles of licorice-root syrup to tackle possible "lung disease."
The instruction is obligatory and noncompliance will be punished by hefty fines as the authorities continue to deny the presence of coronavirus within the Central Asian state's borders.
The personal medicine boxes must also contain five medical masks, a pair of rubber gloves, sanitizer, and oxalinic ointment, RFE/RL correspondents report from the region.
The move comes two weeks after Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov at a televised government session talked about "the great abilities" of licorice root to prevent possible coronavirus infection.
In March 2020, Berdymukhammedov praised the smoke of burned harmel and saksaul tree, as well as consumption of noodles with pepper to prevent coronavirus infection.
At the time, schools were instructed to use Berdymukhammedov's book, Medicinal Plants Of Turkmenistan, in lessons across the country.
Turkmenistan remains the only Central Asian country that has not officially reported a single coronavirus infection to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In August, the WHO expressed concern over an increase in atypical pneumonia cases in Turkmenistan and unsuccessfully urged Ashgabat to allow it to organize independent coronavirus tests in the country.
Turkmen officials have clung to their zero-infections statistics despite signs of outbreaks in prisons, schools, and the general population as hospitals get increasingly crowded, as well as large numbers of cases in neighboring countries.
Many Turkmen citizens report staying home despite being ill, fearing that a trip to the doctor could infect them, as hospitals quietly strain under high numbers of patients reporting COVID-19-like symptoms.
The bodies of victims of lung ailments are being delivered to relatives in special plastic bags, and there have been an unusually high number of fresh graves across the country, RFE/RL correspondents have reported.