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World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Image Credit: AP

Turkmenistan is allowing a COVID-19 team from the World Health Organization to visit after months of planning even as the reclusive dictatorship maintains it has no coronavirus cases.

The group includes officials from Germany's Robert Koch Institute, Hans Kluge, regional director at WHO Europe, said on Twitter on Monday, showing them boarding a Turkmenistan plane. In April, he said a WHO team would travel to the Caspian Sea nation "in the coming days."

Turkmenistan is one of only a dozen countries - and the only one in Central Asia - that have no officially reported cases of COVID-19. Its neighbors have struggled to contain the spread of the virus, with Iran experiencing its deadliest day of the pandemic on Saturday and Kazakhstan reimposing a lockdown for two weeks after cases surged.

Human Rights Watch said June 27 that Turkmen authorities were silencing medical workers and others who sought to speak out about the spread of the virus and urged the government to "immediately start carrying out WHO recommendations and guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and data collection."

The country has continued to hold mass public events since the pandemic began.