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WHO Mission Arrives In 'Coronavirus-Free' Turkmenistan After Months Of Delays

By RFE/RL's Turkmen Service July 07, 2020

ASHGABAT -- A long-delayed mission from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Turkmenistan, the only Central Asian nation that has not officially registered a single coronavirus case.

Catherine Smallwood, the mission's leader, said her group will work with Turkmen authorities on aspects of COVID-19 preparedness and response, namely coordination and control systems at the national level, epidemiology and surveillance, laboratory services, patient management, infection prevention and control, and risk communication.

The mission, which arrived late on July 6, will be in Turkmenistan for 10 days.

The WHO has been trying to send a mission to Turkmenistan for more than two months to investigate Ashgabat's claims that there are no coronavirus cases in the country.

Smallwood said that her group's trip to the energy-rich, mostly desert country of some 6 million people, was postponed due to travel restrictions imposed over the pandemic.

"Turkmenistan managed to establish a national multisectoral COVID-19 task force; approving a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan; and developing COVID-19 guidelines for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Reorganization of facilities and staff at all levels of the health system is a critical step the government has been taking: this includes repurposing facilities and training healthcare workers," Smallwood said, stressing that the WHO has helped, and will assist Ashgabat deal with the long-term impact of the pandemic.

Although Turkmen officials insist that there is no coronavirus in the country, multiple reports have quoted medical personnel, unnamed officials, and local residents as saying that a significant number of people have been hospitalized with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

With reporting by Turkmenportal

Source: arrives-in-coronavirus-free-turkmenistan-after- months-of-delays/30711407.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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