Ex-Soviet Tajikistan on Monday admitted having coronavirus cases for the first time in more than five months, with authorities blaming citizens' "carelessness" for allowing the disease to return.
Strongman leader Emomali Rakhmon said on January 26 that the country could be confident that it had no cases of the disease after the official count had stopped at 13,308 cases and 90 deaths earlier that month.
But on Monday the government office responsible for anti-coronavirus measures said new cases "have been recorded in the country's health care institutions" in a statement distributed via the state information agency Khovar.
The office did not say how many new cases of the disease there were and the count on the official website remained unchanged as of Monday evening.
The office said the population had shown "carelessness," by not wearing masks and flouting other guidelines.
Authorities on Sunday reported receiving 300,000 free doses of the Sinovac vaccine via charter flight from neighbouring China.
In March, Tajikistan received nearly 200,000 free doses of AstraZeneca through the international Covax programme.
The few independent media outlets remaining in the strongly authoritarian republic have reported a stream of cases in recent weeks, citing information from private laboratories.
The government was late to declare any virus cases last year, announcing 15 infections on April 30 just as a World Health Organization delegation prepared to fly to the republic to review the pandemic response.
Turkmenistan, another Central Asian country, has continued to insist it is coronavirus-free, despite a British ambassador saying he contracted the disease while he was in the country and a Turkish diplomat stationed there reportedly dying from coronavirus-related complications.