Turkmenistan Ramps Up COVID-19 Measures

Turkmenistan is restricting travel within the country and checking on returnees from abroad who arrived before the introduction of quarantine, as it steps up efforts to prevent infections with COVID-19.

Quarantine camp in Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan

Travel inside Turkmenistan has been limited since March 19. The highways between Ashgabat and the regional centers Dashoguz, Balkan, Lebap, and Mary are controlled by the police and doctors. Anyone wishing to enter the capital has to present a certificate from the passport department confirming their place of registration, and another certificate from the local hospital declaring that they are not carrying the COVID-19 virus.

Tents have been erected on the local roads connecting the regional and district centers. Employees of the state highways inspectorate stop all types of transport. Doctors in the tents take the temperatures of passengers and drivers, and record their place of residence and personal details. The whole process is fast, at least between the city of Dashoguz and the local districts. After the checks, people get back on the buses and continue their journeys.

From March 23, Turkmen Railways stopped selling train tickets. The last trains ran on March 22, and only to take people home to their place of registration.

Officials are making health checks on residents of the southeastern Mary region who returned home from abroad between the start of November 2019 and the end of January this year. They go to the returnees’ homes to ask about their health and take their temperatures. The officials work in groups of three consisting of a representative of the local migration service, a doctor from the local polyclinic, and an employee of the housing management office. It is reported that people with a high temperature are taken into quarantine.

“They have lists with the personal details of residents who have arrived from abroad: which country they were in, their date of birth, and contact details,” a local source told turkmen.news.

It’s not reported if there have been any actual cases of people being taken into quarantine. According to the source, returnees from abroad are visited once, placed on a register, and told to report to the family doctor at the polyclinic every day for 14 days.

In early February the Turkmen authorities started placing all passengers in quarantine. A tent camp was set up in Turkmenabat in the east of the country for this purpose. All international flights by the national carrier landed in Turkmenabat, rather than the capital Ashgabat, while the whole of Lebap region was declared a quarantine zone.

A long-distance truck driver from Belarus died a few days ago on Turkmenistan’s border with Kazakhstan. The cause of his death is not yet known. According to figures from March 30, 79 freight vehicles were waiting to get into Turkmenistan from Kazakhstan at the Temir-baba border checkpoint. A source in the region reports that tents have been erected on the highway in Garabogaz where drivers from Belarus and Russia are to be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

The spring holidays for Turkmen schoolchildren have been extended until April 6, teachers were told on March 30. The children were to have gone back to school on April 1, but the Education Ministry decided to extend the vacation by another week.

Cafes and restaurants in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat were told to close on March 24, as part of efforts to prevent COVID-19 infections. In the beginning of April some of the cafes resumed hosting guests.

Premises are fumigated with harmala, a plant used widely in traditional medicine. Antiseptic dispensers are placed at the entrances to many state institutions and private enterprises, including shopping centers, for use before entry.

No cases of infection with COVID-19 have been officially recorded in Turkmenistan. The borders with neighboring countries remain closed and flights abroad have been stopped. The death from COVID-19 of a Turkmen student in Lebap region, reported by turkmen.news in February, has not been confirmed.