Prominent Turkmen composer Rejep Rejepov has died of COVID-19 in the Central Asian nation, where authorities continue to deny the presence of the coronavirus within the country's borders.
Rejepov's brother Rahmet Rejepov wrote on Facebook on January 10 that the composer died of COVID-19 at the age of 76.
Rejep Rejepov's musical compositions were used in dozens of movies and documentaries shot in the Soviet era and after Turkmenistan gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Turkmenistan remains the only Central Asian nation that has not reported officially a single coronavirus infection to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In August 2020, 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 illness, 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's correspondents have reported.