Officially, no cases of Covid have been registered in Turkmenistan, and judging by the information available, the country is experiencing the strongest third wave of coronavirus. BBC News reporters looked into the situation.
As in North Korea, the Turkmen authorities have denied the presence of coronavirus in the country. Sayakhat Kurbanov (name has been changed) is one of those patients who do not officially exist. Last month, he called an ambulance, suffering from chest pain and breathing problems – he was literally gasping for breath.
The arrived doctors diagnosed pneumonia and hospitalized Kurbanov. He understood what this meant, because he knew that doctors in his country called Covid that way. From the ambulance, he called the clinic, where he took a coronavirus test a few days ago, and heard the expected, but frightening answer: “This is positive.” Still hoping for something, he asked again: “What is positive? Is this a covid?” A laconic “Yes” confirmed his fears. However, as it turned out later, a positive test result in Turkmenistan is never confirmed by a paper document that should have been handed out.
The first two hospitals, where the ambulance brought Kurbanova, did not accept him: one due to overcrowding, the second due to his lack of registration in Ashgabat. And he panicked:
“I almost died on the way. Lack of air … I started banging against the window and shouted: “Please stop, I can’t breathe.” They gave me oxygen, but it didn’t help much. I panicked. I asked the doctor: “What should I do?”
Kurbanov called a friend and asked for help. After numerous phone calls and heated conversations, he was finally accepted. He later described his condition within five days:
“I couldn’t breathe – everything inside me was glued together. I had panic attacks because I couldn’t breathe. As if I dived under the water and could not surface. “
According to Kurbanov, getting to a hospital in Turkmenistan does not always mean getting help. Doctors tend to ignore patients and nurses do not check on patients, unless “someone upstairs calls the right people.” The hospital is poorly staffed: 2 nurses served 60 people. There were times when the cleaning lady gave injections. And the nurses said that some patients fainted and died in front of them due to the lack of ventilators and oxygen machines.
While in the hospital, the doctors changed the course of treatment several times, says Kurbanov. It ended up costing him $ 2,000 (in medicine and bribes). After 10 days he was discharged.
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Authorities are not disclosing coronavirus cases. Former dentist and now President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov uses the image of a healthy nation as the core of state propaganda. After all, the recognition of the existing pandemic in the country could undermine the legitimacy of his regime. And yet this tactic almost failed.
Last year, Turkish diplomat Kemal Uchkun fell ill in Ashgabat. He had the characteristic symptoms of coronavirus: chest pain, fever, sweating. As usual, he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
His wife Guzide Ukun sent X-rays of her husband to Turkish hospitals, and they all confirmed that he had Covid-19. His wife desperately tried to return him to Turkey, but the Turkmen authorities refused to allow a plane with medical equipment to pick him up. The permission was received, alas, only a few hours after the death of the diplomat. Wukong’s body was embalmed, and forensic experts could not find traces of the coronavirus.
Some quarantine measures introduced by the authorities of Turkmenistan are supposedly designed to stop the spread of the disease. But the government insists: only thanks to its “preventive measures” there is no coronavirus in the country. Kurbanov says the hospital staff did not even use the terms “coronavirus” or Covid:
“They say ‘this virus’ or ‘this disease.’ I pushed them: “Why don’t you say what this is? Is it a covid?” And they nodded silently. They will let people die, but they will never admit that they have Covid. “
While still in the hospital, Kurbanov received a text message from the authorities warning him of harm to his health. They urged to wear face masks due to the high dust content in the air. Isn’t this taking care of its citizens?