A sister of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has died amid unconfirmed reports that many of the president's relatives have been hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms in recent weeks.

Rahmon's 64-year-old sister, Qurbonbi Rahmonova, was buried on July 21 in the village of Malikov, a day after she died in Dushanbe's hospital No 5.  A physician at the hospital told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that Rahmonova died of COVID-19.

The Tajik government and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed condolences to Rahmon on his sister's death on July 21.

Tajik officials initially denied the existence of any coronavirus infections in the country when the pandemic first started last year. Since admitting the virus had hit the country, officials have been accused of underreporting cases and covering up the extent of its spread.

Sources close to the government told RFE/RL that Rahmonova's son, his nephew, and several members of his immediate family were currently being treated for COVD-19 in Dushanbe hospitals.

On July 5, Rahmon's 88-year-old mother-in-law, Uzbekbi Asadulloyeva, died in a Dushanbe hospital. The cause of her death was not made public, but physicians at the hospital told RFE/RL she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and died while connected to a ventilator.

One of Rahmon's sons-in-law, Shamsullo Sohibov, has been treated for COVID-19 for about a month in a Dushanbe hospital, a medical staff member told RFE/RL, adding that the patient's state was improving and that he was disconnected from a ventilator.

According to unconfirmed reports, two of Rahmon's daughters had the coronavirus but only mild symptoms and were treated at home.

The government said that from January 1 until June 20 there had been no new coronavirus cases registered in the country, but the state coronavirus task force admitted on June 21 that new cases of COVID-19 had been registered in the Central Asian state.

As of July 22, the number of officially registered coronavirus cases in Tajikistan is 14,291, including 115 deaths.  However, many physicians and medical experts in the country say the real number is much higher.