Central Asia tightens restrictions as coronavirus spreads

A worker wearing a protective face mask following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) carries meat at a local food market, also known as bazaar, in Almaty, Kazakhstan March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

ALMATY (Reuters) - Authorities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have announced fresh restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus as the number of cases in Central Asia rose.

The government of Kyrgyzstan, where the number of coronavirus cases more than doubled on Saturday to 14, declared a month-long state of emergency from Sunday and said it would shut down public transportation in the capital, Bishkek.

The cabinet urged citizens to minimize travel and said it has already locked down the provincial districts where the infection had been diagnosed.

In Kazakhstan, where 53 cases have been confirmed, authorities said they were closing all parks in Almaty, the country’s biggest city, which was this week put on lockdown along with the capital, Nur-Sultan.

Over the last two days, police and National Guard personnel have also locked down several residential buildings in Almaty where infected people lived.

In Uzbekistan, with 37 confirmed cases, the government said late on Friday it was shutting down all entertainment venues and tea houses and banning large-scale wedding parties and other family ceremonies.

In Turkmenistan, which has so far reported no coronavirus cases, locals traveling to and from the capital, Ashgabat, said that officials at checkpoints set up around the city informed them that non-essential travel was banned.

The Turkmen government, which earlier suspended all international flights, has made no official announcements on the scope and duration of the new restrictions.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; additional reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov in Tashkent, Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek and Marat Gurt in Ashgabat; editing by Alexander Smith and Jason Neely