The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population noted yesterday that 319 people have been admitted to Dushanbe City Medical Center No. 1 on suspicion of contracting pneumonia.  Eleven people reportedly died of pneumonia in this hospital and eight pneumonia patients are currently in an intensive care.

“319 people, including 136 medical workers, have been have been admitted to Dushanbe City Medical Center No.1 on suspicion of contracting pneumonia.  107 people were released from the hospital yesterday and 30 other people have been released in recent days.  Unfortunately, 11 people died of this disease and eight other patients are current in an intensive care,” the press center of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population said on April 27.   

According to official statistics, 4,100 tests had been conducted for the coronavirus infection in in Tajikistan as of Aril 27.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population says Tajikistan has received a total of 46,900 test kits from Russia, China, and Germany.

Meanwhile, Radio Liberty says Tajikistan has only one laboratory in Dushanbe, capable of processing coronavirus tests.

Initially, test samples were also sent to laboratories in Russia and the United Kingdom to rule out any possible error made in the Dushanbe lab.

But that practice stopped as international flights were suspended on March 19 as part of efforts to prevent an outbreak of the virus.

Recall, Ms. Galina Perfilyeva, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Tajikistan, had initially confirmed the Tajik government’s position that the country’s remains free of the coronavirus.

But Ms. Perfilyeva has changed her tone in recent days.

On April 22, she told Russia’s daily Kommersant that no laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases have been revealed in Tajikistan yet.

At the same time, she stressed that “It’s impossible to conclusively say that there is no coronavirus infection in Tajikistan.   

According to her, they are aware of Tajikistan’s restricted capacity in diagnostics and treatment.   

"COVID-19 has asymptomatic forms, too," she added. "In Tajikistan, like in the vast majority of countries, it’s not possible to conduct laboratory tests of the entire population to identify them.”

The WHO is expected to send specialists to Tajikistan soon to further assess the situation.

Though Tajikistan officially has no coronavirus cases, the public health situation has suddenly become one of the most sensitive subjects for the country’s authorities.

Radio Liberty says health officials often accuse the media of “spreading false rumors” and “sowing panic” amid the pandemic.

Two local journalists were reportedly summoned by police for interrogation in early April after they challenged health authorities at a press briefing.

The government has long been criticized for clamping down on media outlets and preventing freedom of speech, but the coronavirus crisis has made reporting “even harder in Tajikistan,” media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said.

The pressure on journalists about public health issues began after RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported about a sudden quarantine at a hospital in the Jabbor-Rasoulov district following the death of a patient from pneumonia.

Tajikistan went on to see a spike of deaths among health workers and others who died in quarantine after short-term illnesses.

Officials attributed the deaths to tuberculosis and pneumonia, respectively, and said neither person had COVID-19.

Officials are also placing fairly large numbers of people under quarantine in what authorities say is a precautionary measure.

Deputy Health Minister, Shodikhon Jamshed, on April 17 explained the apparent spike of pneumonia cases to adverse weather conditions, which he said had caused a spike in respiratory conditions in particular.

According to data from the Republican Center for Medical Statistics and Information at the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population, 12,802 people were diagnosed with the pulmonary infection in 2019.  The number of lethal cases was not reported.