Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Turkmenistan maintaining international and domestic movement restrictions through at least Aug. 31 to prevent spread of COVID-19.

  • Alert Begins: 31 Jul 2020 11:27 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Period: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions

Authorities have extended the suspension of rail services until at least Aug. 15 as part of their strategy to combat coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Scheduled international flights remain suspended through Aug. 31 and all land borders with Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan remain closed indefinitely; the International Seaport of Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi has canceled all passenger services. Only Turkmen nationals, permanent residents, diplomats, and workers in key industries and infrastructure are permitted to enter the country; all arrivals must reportedly undergo 14 days’ quarantine in a state-run facility. While freight traffic is generally allowed to transit the border, Turkmen authorities have previously restricted cross-border freight traffic without warning or explanation. All persons departing the country must be in possession of a negative COVID-19 test certificate, signed within the previous 24 hours.

Domestic flights are operating on a significantly reduced schedule. Security forces have erected checkpoints on roads entering Ashgabat; only freight and goods vehicles with permits are permitted to pass. All national, intercity, and regional highways are closed, except to special permit holders and emergency services. Security force checkpoints have also been reported on highways in Balkan, Mary, Lebap, and Dashoguz provinces. Individuals are not permitted to leave their districts of residence without a permit.

Shopping malls, entertainment venues, leisure facilities, cultural venues, houses of worship, and sports facilities are closed nationwide until at least Aug. 1, though this will likely be extended. Restaurants and cafes may remain open for deliveries only. Additionally, while there is no official ban on public gatherings, authorities in Ashgabat have deactivated ATMs in shopping centers and semi-enclosed market areas, including the Terkinsky bazaar, to prevent crowds congregating. It remains mandatory to maintain a social distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) and wear a protective facemask in public.

Authorities could impose further restrictions based on disease activity in the country.

Background and Analysis
The measures are in place despite the government’s denial that COVID-19 is present in the country. Turkmenistan's preventative restrictions largely correspond with similar actions other governments are taking globally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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