Turkmenistan Makes Face Masks Compulsory but Remains Silent on COVID-19
Hospitals in Turkmenistan are still struggling to cope with high numbers of pneumonia patients. In early August between 30 and 40 people a day were dying in the infectious diseases hospital in Yoloten in the southeastern Mary region, according to turkmen.news’ sources. Turkmenistan’s officials continue to insist, however, that there are no cases of COVID-19 in the country.
In early August the Melhem sanatorium in Mary region was turned into a hospital for pneumonia patients. The local COVID treatment centers in the infectious diseases hospitals in Mary, Yoloten, and the Mary-GRES (power station) settlement were overwhelmed with the influx of patients, Turkmen.news sources reported.
Levofloxacin and Arbidol are the main medicines used to treat seriously ill patients, but relatives have to find these drugs themselves or buy them from doctors. One ampoule of Levofloxacin costs 200 manats (just over $8). Treatment consists of four ampoules a day for seven to 14 days, depending on the patient’s condition. This means costs of between $224 and $448 for the drug for each patient. Prices of Levofloxacin in Russian pharmacies start at $3.
But more importantly, the interim recommendations on coronavirus drawn up and confirmed by the Russian Federation Health Ministry refer to Levofloxacin as a medicine that can be used together with other medicines, if the course of the disease is complicated by bacterial infection.
Yuliya Moiseyeva, a doctor at Moscow’s leading Botkin Hospital, told turkmen.news that Levofloxacin is not a bad medicine and is used to treat pneumonia, but it is not a COVID medicine.
“If, for example, a patient had a bacterial infection on top of COVID and there was bacterial contagion too, then Levofloxacin would help,” she said.
However, in Turkmen hospitals everyone is having Levofloxacin injections, according to sources. Moreover, people are afraid to go to a doctor and prefer to treat themselves at home. They find out the names of the medicines from friends who have had coronavirus and buy them in pharmacies.
“Even though Levofloxacin is a prescription drug, anything can be got for a bribe in Turkmenistan,” a source wrote.
The conditions in the Melhem sanatorium are not adequate; there are many flies and cockroaches. Sources in Mary reported that because of a hole in the state budget the government has told major firms to bear the costs of maintaining hospitals where COVID patients are treated and supplying them with food and other necessities. The COVID center at the Melhem sanatorium is under the patronage of Taze-Ay, a producer of salami and other processed meats. Patients’ relatives say that food is good and varied at the center and patients are given meat dishes. The firm also pays for ventilators to be used.
Following several deaths of older doctors, elderly medics still working in hospitals in Mary region have been sent on vacation, turkmen.news reported on August 4. Those who have used up their vacation are sent on unpaid leave instead. At the same time, younger doctors are threatened with loss of their qualifications if they ask for vacation or resign from their posts.
Doctors complain that they are working flat out and are not provided with the necessary personal protective equipment. This applies in particular to the military hospital in Mary, where the entire ground floor has been repurposed as a quarantine zone.
Turkmenistan’s government, on the other hand, is doing nothing to help its citizens stranded abroad in Turkey, India, Russia, and elsewhere to return home. Those who get sick and die have to be buried abroad, as it is not possible for their families to bring their bodies home. Only on August 20 sources reported that Turkmenistan airlines flights will bring back Turkmen citizens from New Delhi and Minsk.
Meanwhile, new reports keep coming in from Turkmenistan about deaths from coronavirus. Turkmen.news carefully verifies these reports, so there is no doubt about their reliability. Not all cases are known and some families prefer not to make public the deaths of their loved ones.
On July 12, Gulya Babayeva, a family doctor at the district power station polyclinic in Abadan, near Ashgabat, died from coronavirus. Her brother Meret Gylyjov, a former employee of the land management department in the Abadan local administration, also died from the virus.
At the end of July, well-known businessman Tachmurad Rahimov died in the northern city of Dashoguz. He was the director of the private Hilal firm, which manufactures plastic windows, metal doors, building materials and furniture. Tachmurad Rahimov was awarded the Love for the Fatherland medal in 2018 and was known locally for his charitable work. He spent his last days in the ICU in Dashoguz infectious diseases hospital, and died just short of his 66th birthday.
On August 2, Kurbanmuhammet Muhammedov, 63, a driver at the OSCE Center in Ashgabat, died from complications caused by coronavirus. His death was confirmed by two independent sources. Turkmen.news tried to speak to the OSCE ambassador, Natalya Drozd, but she would not answer our calls or ring back. The OSCE center did not close for quarantine, as secretaries continued to take calls from turkmen.news.
On August 4, turkmen.news reported the following deaths from coronavirus: Elina Grigoryants, a teacher at the Republican Music School in Ashgabat; Valentina Maslennikova, a pensioner from Ashgabat; Viktor Chernyakov, a former employee of the music school in Mary; and Yekaterina Gluhova, a resident of Abadan and former worker at the factory producing reinforced concrete products.
On August 9, Larisa Kan, a teacher at kindergarten No. 26 in Dashoguz, died from COVID-19. Eziz Annamuhamedov passed away the same day. He had worked at the military commissariat and then as a handicrafts teacher at School No. 10 in Sakarchage district, Mary region.
On August 18, Sona Cherkezova (pictured), a doctor and infectious diseases specialist, passed away. She was 64 and had worked until the end to save lives at the infectious diseases hospital in the Ashgabat suburb of Choganly without a thought for her own health.
“She was an old-school doctor, one of the few who really kept Turkmen health care going,” her friends said.
Sona Cherkezova was buried on August 19.
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