In many ways the actions and posturing towards Covid-19 seen in the Turkmenistani government mirror those of another former Soviet republic - Belarus. Broadly speaking, both countries share a similar information environment in the sense that freedom of the press is limited and state-run media is the main provider of information (although Belarus is considered more free than Turkmenistan
). This limited information environment means that when government officials and state media dismiss the health threat posed by the pandemic as "psychosis
", mislabel deaths likely due to Covid-19 as Pneumonia
, and refuse to acknowledge the public health crisis brought about by Covid-19
, society in both countries may be left considerably more vulnerable to the disease. Just as Berdimuhamedow recommended the burning of herbs to protect against Covid-19
, President Lukashenko of Belarus has recommended a series of questionable folk medicine treatments as a potential means of fighting the virus
. Like Turkmenistan, Belarus avoided instituting any major closure of public places but established a quarantine period for inbound travelers
. Both also countries commemorated May 9th - "Victory Day" - with large military parades
with 2020 marking the first Victory Day parade held in Turkmenistan.
However, there are some nuances that separate both countries' response to Covid-19. The WHO has visited Belarus and provided recommendations towards the country's response to the pandemic - although Lukashenko dismissed the recommendations and the "politics" behind the WHO's operation
. This contrasts with Turkmenistan, which has not been hostile or antagonistic towards the WHO, but instead be evasive to WHO inspection and deny the organization a visit to the country. Inbound and outbound terrestrial travel from either country is nearly impossible. However, a major difference separates both states' border troubles: Turkmenistan had unilaterally closed its borders to its surrounding states, whereas Belarus is surrounded by neighbors that have closed their borders as a protective measure (including Russia, although some Russian citizens have bypassed their closed borders and used Belarus as a means to circumvent air travel restrictions
). Additionally, despite the earlier mentioned sentiments from Lukashenko, the government of Belarus does maintain statistics on Covid-19 cases in the country
. While the accuracy of these numbers could be debated, they are likely to be a far more realistic figure compared to those officially reported by Turkmenistan.