Tajikistan declares first coronavirus cases

Tajikistan registered its first coronavirus cases on Thursday, one of the last countries in the world to confirm it had been affected by the pandemic. 

Five people had tested positive for the disease in the capital Dushanbe and a further 10 in the northern region of Sughd, the state information agency Khovar said, citing the government’s coronavirus response body.

The coronavirus response group “officially confirmed the existence of COVID-19 infections in the Republic of Tajikistan”, Khovar reported. 

The same body also said it was now compulsory for citizens to wear masks. 

Tajikistan has taken a stop-start approach to enforcing precautions against the spread of the infection. 

Mosques across the majority-Muslim country were shut earlier this month shortly after being allowed to reopen following an initial shutdown in March. 

Tajikistan was also one of the few countries where professional football was still being played up until the weekend, when the local federation suspended the season until at least May 10.

Tajikistan, which borders China, began placing returning nationals and arriving foreigners under quarantine from the beginning of February. 

The death of a high-ranking prosecutor from respiratory complications this month sparked speculation over the spread of the disease.  

But the health ministry said the official had died from swine flu and that testing had identified no cases.  

Tajikistan’s confirmation of coronavirus cases leaves isolated Turkmenistan as the only officially coronavirus-free country in the former Soviet bloc.