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Tajikistan maintains it has no coronavirus cases

7 April 2020

Authorities in Tajikistan say 13 people, including several health workers, have been ordered into quarantine after a patient at a rural hospital in the country’s north died from what officials said was pneumonia, RFE/RL reported.

Health officials said that the group, which includes a top doctor at the Jabbor Rasulov hospital, had tested negative for COVID-19, as had the original patient whose relatives said fell ill after traveling to neighboring Kyrgyzstan for a wedding.

However, the confusion about conditions at Jabbor Rasulov hospital in Sughd Province added to mounting concern over the coronavirus situation in Tajikistan.

Government authorities have said there are no registered cases in the nation, and last week, the in-country representative for the World Health Organization backed up that claim.

Tajikistan’s Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection said that as of April 6, no coronavirus infection cases had been registered in the country and called on the population not to believe in rumors and unconfirmed information, Tajikistan’s Avesta news agency reported.

But Tajikistan’s health-care system is rickety and underfunded, and the country is surrounded by neighbors where coronavirus cases have been reported and increasing, RFE/RL reports.

Tajikistan’s authoritarian government has also long suppressed independent media and nongovernmental civil-society groups. That’s only added to concern that authorities are either hiding the true scope of infections, or are unable to test widely in the population.

The 13 people were ordered into quarantine on April 5 and taken from the Jabbor Rasulov hospital to the Khujand regional infectious-disease facility.

Marufjon Hojiboev, the deputy head of the Sughd Provincial Health Department, told reporters on April 6 that the national laboratory in Dushanbe found negative results for COVID-19 among the 13 individuals.

The patient, whose death on March 31 initially sparked concern, was identified as a 60-year-old man who lived in a village near the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Relatives of the man told RFE/RL that the man had attended a wedding in Kyrgyzstan sometime before March 21 and felt unwell after returning home to Tajikistan the same day.

Kyrgyzstan has 228 confirmed coronavirus infections as of the morning of April 7, according to official figures.

Deputy Tajik Health Minister Mirhamuddin Kamolzoda told RFE/RL that tests on the man who died were negative for the coronavirus. He added that the ministry was prepared to release those results publicly to allay any concerns.

Tajik officials came under criticism last month for celebrating Norouz, the Persian New Year, with parades and concerts, ignoring warnings by the World Health Organization against mass gatherings.