Turkmenistan has suffered no coronavirus cases, the Central Asian country’s autocratic president claimed in a rare foreign interview, Turkmen state media reported Tuesday.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told Moscow-based broadcaster Mir that “thanks to work (we) have carried out,” Turkmenistan has “yet to discover a case of this disease,” state media said in its report on the interview.
Turkmenistan is one of the few countries, along with North Korea, yet to declare a single case of the coronavirus. All the others are Pacific island states.
Despite the zero case boast, Turkmenistan only began relaxing tough restrictions that saw restaurants shuttered and bus and train travel between regions off limits in April, nearly nine months after it imposed them.
The isolated country has still not resumed regular air travel.
Berdymukhamedov, 63, noted in the Mir interview that the gas-rich country is using two Russian vaccines, EpiVacCorona and Sputnik V, to vaccinate at-risk groups.
While Turkmenistan has no local independent media, foreign-based media have regularly cast doubt on the coronavirus-free claim.
A Turkish diplomat stationed in Turkmenistan was reported as dying with the disease last year and the United Kingdom’s ambassador admitted on social media in December that he had contracted the coronavirus whilst in the country.
Turkmenistan was one of the last countries to impose restrictions on spectator sports and police actively dissuaded citizens from wearing masks in the first months of the pandemic.
It changed tack after the World Health Organization paid a visit to the country in July and advised the government to adopt preventative measures “as if COVID-19 were already circulating.”