Turkmenistan is one of a handful of countries that has not reported a single coronavirus case during the global pandemic. Despite neighbouring Central Asian countries including Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan all battling COVID-19, Turkmenistan has so far only acknowledged the presence of pneumonia.

Some critics are doubtful of the government’s coronavirus-free claim and say its continued denial is risking the health of Turkmen citizens. Human rights advocates outside of Turkmenistan allege that medical workers have been silenced when it comes to the pandemic. 

The country, which has in the past been criticised for its extreme lack of transparency, has been taking precautions for disease prevention. The government temporarily stopped train services, shut down malls and restaurants, established a COVID-19 information hotline, and is asking the public to wear masks.

In mid-July, a health advisory team from the World Health Organization was allowed to visit Turkmenistan. They did not question the government’s health data, but instead provided recommendations to enforce public health measures “as if COVID-19 was circulating” there.

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