ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan scolded the United States embassy on Tuesday over a health alert which cast doubt on official reports of zero COVID-19 cases in the country.
The Ashgabat government has repeatedly said the desert nation of 6 million is free of the novel coronavirus. It has imposed quarantine for those flying in from abroad, closed land border crossings and curbed travel between provinces.
"While there are no official reports of positive COVID-19 cases in Turkmenistan, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of local citizens with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 undergoing COVID-19 testing and being placed in quarantine in infectious diseases hospitals for up to fourteen days," the embassy said in the alert message posted on its website.
"Private citizens who undergo testing for COVID-19 in Turkmenistan may be sent to involuntary quarantine at a government-selected facility at their own expense with no control over the amenities for an unspecified period of time."
The Turkmen foreign ministry said the U.S. embassy statement was distorting information about measures it has taken against the virus.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan points out the lack of substance and objectivity in this kind of 'fake news'," it said, adding that it had already warned the U.S. ambassador against spreading information "not supported by facts".
The gas-rich desert nation located north of Iran and Afghanistan is one of the world's most tightly-controlled and isolated countries.
(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov)