Kazakhstan denies China’s advisory of pneumonia deadlier than coronavirus

The Kazakhstan health ministry acknowledged the presence of “viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology,” but denied that the outbreak was new or unknown.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wearing a protective face mask participates online in the unveiling ceremony of a monument to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.(via REUTERS)
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wearing a protective face mask participates online in the unveiling ceremony of a monument to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.(via REUTERS)
Published on Jul 10, 2020 04:51 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Beijing | By Sutirtho Patranobis | Edited by Arpan Rai

Kazakhstan on Friday dismissed a warning issued by the Chinese embassy for its citizens to guard against an outbreak of an “unknown pneumonia” in the central Asian nation, describing it as being more lethal than the coronavirus as incorrect.

The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan, located in the city of Nur Sultan, issued a late statement on Thursday on its official account on the popular app, WeChat, flagging a “significant increase” in cases in the Kazakh cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June.

On Friday, however, Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry said the news was incorrect.

According to agency reports, the ministry said its tallies of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, which also included cases of unclear causes, are in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

“The information published by some Chinese media regarding a new kind of pneumonia in Kazakhstan is incorrect,” the ministry said.

The Kazakhstan health ministry acknowledged the presence of “viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology,” but denied that the outbreak was new or unknown.

“In response to these reports, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially declares that this information does not correspond to reality,” the statement read.

The Chinese embassy statement had said pneumonia in Kazakhstan killed 1,772 people in the year’s first half, with 628 deaths in June, including Chinese citizens.

“The mortality rate of the disease is much higher than that of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus,” it said.

The country implemented a lockdown on March 16 to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic; restrictions were lifted in May but reimposed following an increase in cases.

President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev has said the country could be facing a second wave of infections.

Kazakhstan, which imposed a second lockdown this week to rein in the pandemic, has a tally of almost 55,000 Covid-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962.

According to a Tuesday report by Kazinform, the state news agency of Kazakhstan, the number of pneumonia cases “increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019”.

The country implemented a lockdown on March 16 to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic; restrictions were lifted in May but reimposed following an increase in cases.

China, according to a Reuters report, is a major investor in oil- and metals-rich Kazakhstan and is one of the main markets for its exports, dominated by commodities. Kazakhstan also makes money from Chinese goods carried across its territory to Europe.

The Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry had summoned the Chinese ambassador in April to protest over an article on a Chinese website saying the country was keen to become part of China, the ministry said.

It was a rare move as the two countries avoid criticising each other.

It was during a lecture at a university in Kazakhstan that President Xi Jinping had first talked about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), his ambitious inter-continental connectivity project, in 2013.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021