As COVID-19 Arrives in Tajikistan, People Panic – and Cooperate3 min read

 In Central Asia, Civil Society, COVID-19, Opinion
Tajiks are sensitive people and prone to panic about anything even remotely alarming. But coronavirus isn’t just remotely alarming – in this case, some measure of panic is well-deserved. So how are the people of Tajikistan reacting to the pandemic, and what are they worried about most? 

Although the government of Tajikistan confirmed the first cases of coronavirus on 30 April, many people believe that the pandemic had appeared in the country earlier, but was covered up by the government. This assumption arose from the news reported by Radio Ozodi (Freedom) of the death of a 60 year-old man, apparently from pneumonia, on 31 March in the north of the country. Nonetheless, representatives of the health department in the Rasulov region confirmed on 6 April that all family members and the medical staff who had interacted with the dead man had been placed in quarantine. On 11 April, Tajweek  reported that another man had died from pneumonia in the same hospital. Throughout this time, authorities claimed to have been testing patients and staff, and told the press that all tests had turned up negative. Health representatives also assured the populace that deaths from pneumonia are nothing new; we have had them in the previous years as well, and the reason could be a seasonal spike. On 19 April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the absence of coronavirus in Tajikistan, Sputnik reports. 

The constant denials and reassurances coming from health authorities made the issue more difficult, and Tajiks didn’t know whether to take any measures to prevent the pandemic. The first thing people cared about was food. Suddenly, there was a flour shortage. The prices of essential products doubled. This all came about before the official confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus in the country. But what happened after 30 April? 

Throughout the entire country. cities, towns, streets, porches, and roads are being disinfected by special groups working for the government. From May 15 to 20, President Emomali Rahmon sent aid packages consisting of thousands of tons of food and medicine worth at least 20 million somoni (~1 800 000 Euro) to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Sughd Province, and Khatlon Region. In addition to medicine, doctors working in regional hospitals were provided with medical gowns, masks, gloves, protective equipment, antiseptics, and other medical necessities. 

Although the government has not yet declared total quarantine, people have isolated themselves to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Since all public places are closed, Tajiks find self-isolation relatively easy, and challenge each other to not leave home unless necessary. Social activists and volunteers have been helping vulnerable people and health care providers with food, respirators, and antiseptics. 

Family is considered the highest value for Tajik people. People are panicking because they are afraid on behalf of their parents, relatives, and family members. But COVID-19 has made people understand once more that humanity shares a common destiny, and that to be safe we have to act together against this phenomenon. This is the exact mantra which is followed by Tajiks in this difficult period. 

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