Kazakhstan takes decisive steps to stop the spread of coronavirus

A policeman stands in front of a warning sign "Risk zone". [Nur.kz]

Despite the relatively small numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and a first death reported on Thursday (26 March), the authorities in Kazakhstan, a country neighbouring China, are taking the coronavirus pandemic very seriously.

According to reports, since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency in late-January, the Government of Kazakhstan has been preparing for any possible challenges for the population’s healthcare. A special governmental commission prepared an action plan to protect the population in advance. Since February, before countries in Europe, Kazakhstan started blocking national borders for some foreign countries with high epidemic danger, and all citizens were advised to avoid trips abroad.

On 15 March, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency across the nation. In his decree, the President stated that entry to and departure from the country is to be restricted for everyone except for diplomats and official delegations, those invited by the Government and foreigners under certain conditions.

In addition, the decree introduced quarantine measures and suspended shopping and  closed entertainment centres. Kindergartens, schools and universities have been closed as per the recommendations of medical experts.

On 23 March the President addressed the State Commission dealing with the state of emergency. To prevent a further wave of infection the President introduced increased quarantine measures.

Kazakhstan has so far been less impacted than other countries in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases, despite a long land border with China, where the first cases of the disease were identified.

On Thursday (26 March), there were 109 reported cases of coronavirus, and on the same day, the first death was announced.

When the government measures were first announced, there were only a handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan. The country’s authorities say they have learnt the lessons from other countries where the virus is widespread, and consider it vitally important to take strict preventive measures, regardless of the number of people affected.

As expected, the number of confirmed cases has risen in the country’s two biggest cities – its capital Nur-Sultan and most populous city Almaty. For this reason, on 23 March, the President of Kazakhstan put the two cities in lockdown.

In addition to restricting movement of people and vehicles, the authorities have limited public transportation and instructed restaurants to switch to delivery-only service. To enforce the isolation of these city centres, the President announced the need to impose penalties on those who violate the requirements of quarantine.

Economic measures

The government also took economic measures to protect certain groups who will be affected more drastically than others. Those most at risk are families who have lost their sources of income and have no economic ‘safety net’. The payment of principal and interest on all loans of those affected by the crisis will be suspended. In addition, large families, people with disabilities and other socially vulnerable groups will receive free groceries, consisting primarily of domestic products.

To further support this, the President announced initiatives to regionally monitor the levels of socially significant goods in order to protect the population from price spikes. Governors will coordinate the inter-regional flow of such goods to eliminate local deficits and prevent the panic-buying of essential goods.

The Government has also put forward concrete measures to support the financial sector. The President announced that Kazakhstan will allocate $10 billion for anti-crisis measures throughout the country, excluding tax benefits and local support. $740 million will go towards measures to boost employment.

Bonus payments worth one month salary will be made to doctors, police officers and other specialists involved in the fight against coronavirus, as well as to people who have lost income due to the state of emergency. To support enterprises, the Head of State ordered a standstill on bank loan repayments by small and medium-sized businesses for the duration of the state of emergency, as well as a deferral of payment of all types of taxes and other obligatory payments for a period of three months.

To avoid panic and to counter disinformation, the President instructed the Ministry of Information and Public Development to deliver daily briefings. To reinforce these messages the website coronavirus2020.kz has been set up to inform the population of the Government’s actions in the fight against the pandemic.


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