Turkmenistan Suspends Flights, Closes Uzbek Border to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

Suspending flights to China and Thailand, closing the border with Uzbekistan and creating a quarantine zone in the east of the country are among the measures taken by the authorities in Turkmenistan to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Turkmenistan airlines flight T5606 from Beijing to Ashgabat lands in Turkmenabat

State carrier Turkmenistan Airlines has suspended scheduled flights to and from Beijing and Bangkok until April at the earliest, sources in Ashgabat told turkmen.news. Passengers are alerted to the changes via text message and are able to claim a full refund on their ticket. Tickets are on sale for flights in April, but passengers are warned at the point of sale that there is no guarantee the flights will take place.

The last scheduled flight from China to Turkmenistan landed on February 1 in the eastern city of Turkmenabat, rather than at its advertised destination, the capital Ashgabat. Turkmenabat and the whole eastern Lebap region have been declared a quarantine zone, sources told turkmen.news on February 1.

Turkmenistan is evacuating its citizens from China, most of whom are students studying there as part of a state program. On February 3, a Turkmenistan Airlines’ Boeing 777 brought evacuees from Beijing to Turkmenabat. All passengers arriving from China are examined and taken into quarantine for at least 14 days.

Passengers arriving in January were not automatically taken into quarantine, according to turkmen.news sources. Turkmen students and employees of the Chinese firm CNPC who landed in Turkmenabat on January 30 were questioned about their health and had their temperature taken. Those who had symptoms of colds or flu had to provide their home addresses and telephone numbers.

There are Turkmen students studying in Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak. Not all Turkmen students have managed to leave China, as there are not enough seats available on the evacuation flights. One student told turkmen.news that some students are trying to get home via Russia.

In a further effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the Turkmen authorities closed the Farap and Shavat crossings on the Uzbek border on January 31. The Farap crossing in Lebap region has been closed indefinitely, while the northern Shavat crossing in Dashoguz region has been closed at least until February 14.

The state service for public health and disease prevention at Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Health and the Medical Industry has produced public information brochures about the coronavirus, which are available at health centers and hospitals and various state bodies. The brochures can be viewed and downloaded from turkmen.news’ Telegram channel.

People at clinics, hospitals, schools, banks, and elsewhere in the Turkmenabat quarantine zone are being urged to wear medical masks and regularly to wipe their noses with oxoline ointment. They are advised to buy their masks only at pharmacies and not at markets. Masks cost between 0,50 and 1 manat. At school children are told to wash their hands frequently, and to have the flu jab, if possible. The injection costs 42 manats.

The coronavirus outbreak has killed 427 people, Reuters reported on February 4. All but two of those deaths have been in China, where infections have passed 20,000. There have been nearly 200 cases elsewhere across 24 countries and China’s special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. Thailand has 25 cases of infections, the highest outside China.

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