Or at least, that is the claim of the secret, authoritarian government of the Central Asian country.
But independent organizations and journalists and activists outside Turkmenistan say there is evidence the country is battling a third wave that is ravaging hospitals and killing dozens – and warn that the president will not allow his public To maintain the risk of deadly virus are minimizing. image.
Turkmen said they had verified all recorded deaths with health records and X-rays, which revealed severe lung damage and tailored medical treatment to coronavirus victims.
“Instead of accepting this and cooperating with the international community, Turkmenistan decided to stick its head in the sand,” Turkmenistan said.
The Turkmen government did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
how it came out
As Covid-19 spread around the world in early 2020, Turkmenistan insisted it had no cases, even as border countries reported skyrocketing outbreaks.
“You see what’s happening in other countries in the region and how different Turkmenistan can be?” Rachel Denber, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
“It was at least 40 degrees Celsius outside (104 degrees Fahrenheit) – not the usual flu season,” he said.
According to Turkmenistan, by then the situation was out of control. The government advised citizens to take bizarre public health measures, such as eating a special type of spicy soup.
As recently as Tuesday, President Berdymukhmedov said the efforts of the global community in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic were “inadequate”, although he did not mention the situation inside his country.
“The pandemic has exposed serious systemic failures in the international response to this challenge,” he said.
‘Turkmenistan is burning’
According to independent journalists and activists, the reality inside Turkmenistan is quite different, despite Berdymukhmedov’s claims that his country is Covid-free.
Diana Serebryanik, director of the Europe-based exile group Rights and Freedom of Turkmen Citizens, said her organization has heard from contacts in the country that hospitals there are currently struggling to cope with the influx of cases.
Serebryanik said his organization’s Turkmen doctors who are now living abroad were in contact with their former colleagues in the country, which allowed them to find out the real situation and provide advice.
She said doctors from inside Turkmenistan had told her that both oxygen and ventilators were hard to come by in the country, that treatment was expensive and deaths from the virus could run into the thousands.
“Turkmenistan is burning, it is burning with Covid… sometimes they don’t even admit patients to the hospital, they send them home,” she said.
According to Serebrynik, the official cause of death in these cases is not listed as Covid-19 or even pneumonia – instead medical certificates record a different condition, such as a heart attack, she said. .
The Journal of Asian Affairs said Uchkun died on July 7. The official cause of his death was cardiac arrest.
underestimating the pink picture
There are many authoritarian governments around the world Announced its COVID-19 outbreaks and received international aid, including the first affected country, including China.
So why is Turkmenistan so insistent that it hasn’t seen a single case yet?
Both Turkmen and Serebryanik said it was up to President Berdymukhamedov, who, as a dentist by profession and former health minister, had placed great emphasis on effectively controlling the well-being of his people – at least in theory.
Serebryanik said that 64-year-old Berdymukhamedov wants to look like a savior for the country and an influential world leader by keeping Kovid-19 out.
Journalist Turkmen said, “Turkmenistan is a country where everything in the garden looks pink… you have marble, state-of-the-art (health facilities) equipped with German, French, Japanese, whatever equipment you have.”
Acknowledging the presence of a deadly virus would undermine the idealized image the president has created and leave Berdymukhamedov open to criticism – and potentially be held to account.
Turkmenistan said, “It will be someone’s failure, someone has to take responsibility for it and who has the last word for it? The president.”
There is no indication yet that Turkmenistan is preparing to reverse its position and admit to having Covid-19 cases inside the country, but Serebryanik said he believes the government will eventually Will have to do
She said there had been “too many deaths” right now.
Human Rights Watch’s Denbar said that international organizations negotiating with Turkmenistan, including the WHO, have a duty to be honest with the world about the situation inside the country.
“At a certain point you have to say, at what cost are you protecting that presence (in the country)? Are you taking measures to protect your relationship … undermining your core mission? ” he said.
Denbar said that in a global pandemic, with many outbreaks linked across international borders, nations had an obligation to provide accurate testing and accurate public information.
“We are all intertwined,” she said. “When one of us fails, we all fail.”