By Abdujalil Abdurasulov

BBC Information

picture supply, Getty Photos

picture captionUnderneath Mr Berdymukhammedov, seen right here in white, the picture of a wholesome nation is on the coronary heart of state propaganda

Turkmenistan is considered one of solely a handful of nations, together with North Korea, which says it has no coronavirus instances. However studies recommend it’s experiencing its third and presumably strongest wave of Covid-19.

Sayahat Kurbanov was suffocating. He gasped for air as if he have been operating a marathon, the ache in his chest insufferable. He had all of the signs of coronavirus.

The issue was he was in Turkmenistan, the place sufferers like him formally don’t exist.

When he referred to as an ambulance final month the physician instructed him he had pneumonia and will go to hospital urgently. Mr Kurbanov (not his actual title) knew that the nation’s medical doctors referred to Covid instances as pneumonia.

On the way in which to the hospital Mr Kurbanov managed to name the clinic the place he had executed a Covid check a number of days earlier. “It’s constructive,” he heard a quiet voice say. “What’s constructive?” he shouted, “is it Covid?” “Sure,” got here the reply.

Solely later did he uncover they by no means offer you a bit of paper when you check constructive in Turkmenistan.

The primary hospital they went to refused to take him as a result of it was full.

“I almost died on the way in which,” Mr Kurbanov mentioned. “The dearth of air… the virus progressed so rapidly. I began hitting the window and shouted ‘Please cease, I can not breathe’. They gave me oxygen but it surely did not assist a lot.”

The following hospital additionally refused to confess him, this time as a result of it was banned from taking in sufferers who weren’t registered within the capital, Ashgabat.

“I began panicking. I requested the physician, ‘What am I speculated to do? Die right here?'”

He referred to as a health care provider he knew and begged for assist. After quite a few cellphone calls and heated conversations he was finally admitted.

His situation didn’t change for 5 days.

“I could not inhale – it was as if the whole lot inside me was glued. I had panic assaults since I could not breathe. It was as if I had dived below water and could not floor.”

He shouted for nurses to present him one thing to alleviate the ache. Moving into hospital will not be all the time sufficient to obtain remedy in Turkmenistan, Mr Kurbanov says. Docs routinely ignore sufferers and nurses do not examine on them except somebody excessive up calls the fitting folks.

picture supply, Turkish authorities

picture captionThe case of Turkish diplomat Kemal Uckun threatened to carry the lid on Turkmenistan’s Covid disaster

The hospital was additionally badly understaffed with a few nurses taking care of greater than 60 folks. There have been instances when a cleansing woman administered injections, he mentioned.

Nurses shared tales about sufferers collapsing and dying in entrance of them as a result of there have been no ventilators out there and oxygen machines did not work. Docs modified Mr Kurbanov’s remedy a number of instances.

He spent about $2,000 (£1,500) on drugs and bribes, an enormous sum in Turkmenistan, and was discharged after 10 days.

International-based Turkmen media are reporting on the third wave of infections, however virtually everybody contained in the nation is afraid to talk. The Turkmen.information web site has recognized greater than 60 individuals who have died of Covid-19 for the reason that begin of the pandemic.

The Turkmen authorities don’t disclose coronavirus instances. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, a former dentist, makes use of the picture of a wholesome nation because the core of state propaganda. To confess that the nation is being affected by the pandemic might undermine his regime’s legitimacy.

Nevertheless, one case final yr virtually blew the cover-up. A Turkish diplomat in Ashgabat fell unwell. Kemal Uckun had typical coronavirus signs: ache within the chest, sweating, fever. He was identified with pneumonia.

His spouse, Guzide Uckun, despatched his chest X-rays to Turkish hospitals they usually all confirmed that he had Covid-19.

She desperately tried to get Mr Uckun again to Turkey however the Turkmen authorities reportedly refused to permit a medically-equipped airplane to fly him out. Permission was solely granted a number of hours after his dying.

Mr Uckun’s physique was embalmed and forensic specialists couldn’t discover traces of coronavirus.

picture supply, Getty Photos

picture captionMedical workers in Turkmenistan is not going to say the phrases coronavirus or Covid (file image)

The Turkmen authorities have launched some quarantine measures to cease the unfold of the illness. However the authorities insists that, due to its “preventive steps”, the nation stays Covid-free.

Not one of the workers at Mr Kurbanov’s hospital used the phrases Covid or coronavirus. “They’d say ‘this virus’ or ‘this illness'”, he mentioned. “I’d push them, ‘Why aren’t you saying what it’s? Is it Covid?’ And they’d nod silently.”

Whereas in hospital, Mr Kurbanov acquired a textual content message from the federal government with a well being warning. It urged folks to put on face masks due to mud within the air.

“Are we dying from the mud?” he mentioned. “They’ll let folks die however they’ll by no means admit that they’ve Covid.”

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