Police in Kyrgyzstan’s northeastern Naryn province are preparing charges against a man infected with the coronavirus who refused to self-quarantine and as a result, is believed to have spread the virus to at least three other people.
The man had returned from Pakistan where he attended a “da’wah”, which is a feature of the controversial Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat.
Kyrgyz officials have traced the arrival of the coronavirus in the country to citizens returning from the Middle East, Pakistan, and India where they travelled for religious purposes.
That fact has sparked debate in Kyrgyzstan as many people have tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from either a da’wah in Pakistan or India, or after performing the hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage, to Mecca.
The first cases of the coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan appeared in mid-March in the Suzak district of the southern Jalalabad Province and Nookat district in Osh province in Kyrgyz citizens who had travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, reports that there are also seven Kyrgyz citizens in Pakistan who have tested positive for the coronavirus and another in India.
Officials have been delicate in their comments about their devout Muslim citizens who have contracted the coronavirus and brought it back to Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan’s Spiritual Board of Muslims has already ordered mosques to be temporarily closed.
At the end of March, deputy board head Zamir Rakiev warned Muslims in Kyrgyzstan not to violate rules being enforced to prevent the spread of the virus.
And a strict lockdown is in effect across the country, where 280 people have been infected with COVID-19 and four have died as of April 9.
According to reports, the man in Naryn Province, identified so far only as O.M, returned from Pakistan on the Lahore-Tashkent flight on March 15 after spending four months in Pakistan. He then flew from Tashkent to Bishkek.
State regulations require people to be checked after arriving from abroad. The Naryn resident was tested, but only on March 30 was he confirmed as having the virus.
He was ordered to self-quarantine but defied the order. Authorities say he is responsible for giving the virus to at least three members of his family.
As of April 9, there were only 10 cases of the coronavirus registered in Naryn Province.
The man has refused medical treatment for himself or his family, saying it made them feel sick. He also posted a video on social networks claiming he was not infected and would continue to reject being treated.
On April 8, Naryn police arrested him for violating sanitary-epidemiological regulations. He could face up to five years in prison.
Others have violated self-quarantine rules and been detained, including a man in southern Osh Province who hid his condition and infected at least seven others.
Two residents of At-Bashi in Naryn Province who earlier returned from a da’wah in India also later tested positive for the coronavirus. They were ordered by medical officials to self-isolate but violated the order and attended Friday Prayers.
Bakytbek Bayzakov, the district chief where they live, said authorities have forcibly isolated the pair.
There was a similar story from Karakol, in Issyk-Kul Province, where a man returned from a da’wah in India and shortly afterwards tested positive for the coronavirus.
State officials have publicly stated it is everyone’s duty not to spread the virus to others and that there are consequences for those who have been infected with the coronavirus and don’t self-quarantine and/or avoid medical treatment.
An increasing number of people in Kyrgyzstan are calling on the government to review its policy on religious organizations and learn more about the activities of Tablighi Jamaat, which is banned in the four other Central Asian countries, Russia, and China.