This article is part of our special report Kazakhstan: recovery and renewal.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced a series of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country on Wednesday (8 July), warning his countrymen that the situation remains serious and declaring 13 July a national day of mourning in memory of the pandemic’s victims.
“The threat of coronavirus should not be underestimated. It’s wrong to keep thinking it is a common flu, it is a much more insidious and dangerous disease,” Tokayev cautioned in a televised address on Wednesday.
“It is now crucial to avoid panic in society,” Tokayev stressed. The announced measures to curb the spread of the virus include mobile health services, increased number of hospital beds and mobile testing centres.
At the same time, the mission of Kazakhstan to the EU insisted that the epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan is under control and necessary measures have been taken to combat the epidemic, including “strict quarantine measures from 5 to 19 July”.
The total number of confirmed cases surpassed 51,000 on Wednesday, 264 deaths and more than 34,000 recovered patients, according to official statistics.
Last Wednesday showed a sudden spike in cases when authorities changed reporting methodology and began to include asymptomatic COVID-19 cases that were previously not added to the total count.
President Tokayev said that “due to mass non-observance of quarantine measures, systemic mistakes of the former leadership of the ministry of health, sluggishness of the Akims [governors], we are essentially dealing with a second wave of coronavirus coupled with a sharp increase in pneumonia infections.”
Around 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are currently hospitalised in the country, 98.9% of them in moderate condition, Kazakhstan’s deputy health minister, Azhar Giniyat told local press on Tuesday.
“In terms of the incidence of pneumonia, this year it increased by 55% compared to six months last year, in June the growth was fourfold,” chief medical officer Aizhan Esmagambetova said last Friday, announcing an investigation into the growth in pneumonia cases.
Meanwhile, authorities switched to a weekly instead of daily reporting of COVID-19 fatalities “due to the fact that the commission physically does not have time to process the volume of information about the sick people,” health minister Aleksei Tsoi said on Tuesday (7 July), Tengrinews.kz reported.
“Unfortunately, doctors also become infected with coronavirus, many of our colleagues who are members of these commissions are now sick,” Tsoi added.
The government introduced a new 14-day lockdown that started on Sunday to battle the pandemic that will see groups of no more than three people permitted in public unlike the previous lockdown in spring when Kazakhs were forbidden from leaving their homes altogether, except for groceries.
Though businesses like hairdressers, gyms, indoor markets, cultural, leisure and entertainment facilities as well as kindergartens will be shut, most public institutions and companies, open-air restaurants and markets can stay open.
International flights will continue to operate with the 17 countries with which air travel was allowed without further expansion of the list.
Kazakhstan’s Mission to the EU told EURACTIV that country is continuously conducting a mass testing programme and that, according to the COVID-19 map of the Johns Hopkins University, it ranks 35th globally in terms of confirmed cases.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]