Nervous Tajiks take precautions against the coronavirus

DUSHANBE/April 20 (The Bulletin) — Tajiks are increasingly sceptical of their government’s insistence that the country has no cases of the coronavirus and have started to
take their own precautions.

A Bulletin correspondent in Dushanbe said that people have started wearing protective masks on the street, children are being pulled from their schools and doctors have begun privately telling people to avoid hospitals.

“When I took my son to school yesterday, out of 24 children who are normally there, there were only eight in the class. This shows that people are worried already,” said a 41-year-old woman who lived in Dushanbe.

Although Tajikistan’s government has insisted that it is business as usual, with President Emomali Rakhmon concentrating on securing his family’s future by promoting his son as his successor and with the football season kicking off on time, reports from the north of the country that a 60-year-old man had died of pneumonia in hospital spooked people.

The man had recently been a guest at a wedding in southern Kyrgyzstan which is dealing with an outbreak of the coronavirus. Still, the government denied that his death had anything to do with the coronavirus, although it did quarantine staff at the hospital, his friends and family.

Businesses, schools and restaurants may be open as normal in Dushanbe, but the mood is increasingly tense.

Telecoms companies have been sending SMS messages telling people to wash their hands and Islamic leaders have asked people not to visit mosques for Iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan which lasts for a month from April 23.

One resident of Dushanbe said that he had been told to avoid crowds.

“I was in the hospital, and the doctor asked us to be careful and avoid crowded places, to wear masks and follow sanitation rules,” he said.

Analysts have said that they doubt that Tajikistan, which has close ties with China, the source of the coronavirus, had escaped the pandemic.

One said that the government may have quietly decided that they had no choice but to go for the socalled herd immunity strategy.


— This story was first published in issue 443 of The Bulletin

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