"At the moment, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Turkmenistan. Based on our observations, we have concluded that the country is fully aware of the danger that the virus currently poses and is taking steps to prepare for a response to the spread of COVID-19." This was stated by the head of the WHO mission, senior emergency specialist at the WHO European Office, Dr. Catherine Smallwood, at today's briefing on the results of the mission.
Today, the work of the WHO mission in Turkmenistan to study the situation with regard to COVID-19 has ended, and Catherine Smallwood shared the main observations, recommendations and conclusions on the further prevention of the spread of the coronavirus.
We appreciate the recent introduction of enhanced measures to prevent the spread of respiratory infections and protect public health, including during mass events, at markets, in stores and on public transport.
Bus and train services within the country have recently been restricted. Preventive measures have been introduced at the individual level, such as wearing masks, hand hygiene, and physical distance.
This year, the country established a national multisectoral working group on COVID-19, approved a preparedness and response plan for COVID-19, and prepared guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. These steps are of great importance.
WHO recommends that Turkmenistan take the same key public health measures that would be necessary in the case of COVID-19 circulation in the country. These include actions critical to the control of coronavirus infection, such as identifying individuals with acute respiratory infections and promptly ensuring isolation, testing and contact tracking for such individuals and appropriate care for patients.
WHO also expects that, in accordance with the rights and obligations of all countries without exception under the International health regulations, the Organization will be informed of any unexpected or unusual public health events, regardless of their nature or source.
We are extremely concerned about the numerous reports of an increase in the number of cases of acute respiratory diseases or pneumonia of unknown origin, and therefore recommend that surveillance and testing systems be strengthened, and that samples be sent to WHO reference laboratories for retesting, as most countries do in the early stages of outbreaks.
The health system of Turkmenistan has the necessary capacity to counter COVID-19. We recommend further strengthening and enhancing the capacity of the health system throughout the country by activating emergency action plans to cope with the rapid increase in disease incidence. Continuous training and protection of health workers is of great importance for this purpose.
The population has an important role to play in the response. Clear information is needed on the risks and protection measures that have been introduced, as well as on the duration of such measures, with regular provision of accurate and understandable recommendations for health protection that will take into account the socio-cultural context and issues of concern to the country's residents. Finally, the important role played by the empowerment of people to protect their health and that of their loved ones.
Stopping the virus is a common task that requires the participation of all levels of government, civil society and the population. In conclusion, let me say the following:
- it is time to take advantage of the efforts already made, step up further actions, and expand testing coverage for acute respiratory infections and cases with suspected COVID-19;
- it is time to strengthen the training of all health care institutions and all medical professionals to receive patients with COVID-19;
- the time has come to mobilize the population to participate in the response;
- the time has come to expand multisectoral response preparedness.
The measures that will be taken in Turkmenistan will be important for the people of your country, as well as for the Central Asian region, the entire European region and the entire world.