Kazakhstan denies ‘unknown pneumonia’ reports but has imposed second national lockdown

Kazakhstan was the first country in the world to enter a second nationwide ban on July 5 after an increase in coronavirus cases. The two-week lock-up period, which could be extended if the virus spreads, restricts public gatherings and prohibits family and holiday gatherings. Citizens over 65 are expected to stay at home, but others are allowed to exercise outdoors alone.

The number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan has increased tenfold since the first blocking measures were lifted. Until May 11, the last day of the state of emergency and closure, Kazakhstan had registered 5,207 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths. From July 13th there were 59,899 confirmed coronavirus cases and 375 deaths in the country. But the situation is developing quickly and could be much worse.

On July 8, the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan warned Chinese citizens that the country had a more deadly outbreak of "unknown pneumonia" than COVID-19. The next day the Kazakh Ministry of Health accepted the presence of viral pneumonia with an "unspecified" cause, but denied that the outbreak was new or unknown. The newly appointed health minister Alexey Tsoy said that the allegation released by the Chinese media "does not correspond to reality”.

Serious concerns about pneumonia data have been raised. Kazakhstan registered between July 1st and 8th 56,809 cases of pneumonia – in addition to the confirmed cases of COVID-19. These cases of pneumonia included the "usual pneumonia" – viral (7,348) and bacterial (9,759) – and 39,702 "unspecified" cases of viral pneumonia, which according to the Minister of Health have a similar course of the disease to the coronavirus. Pneumonia patients with negative corona virus tests are not included in the official government statistics on coronavirus.

Mike Ryan, director of the WHO emergency program, suggested that many cases of highly lethal pneumonia could actually occur. "Undiagnosed cases of COVID-19”- which would show that the government is far from controlling the pandemic.

How did Kazakhstan related to in May as "an anti-pandemic model for Central Asia" became such a bad example for how not to do COVID?

The success expires

Kazakhstan quickly introduced a Soviet-style military ban and quarantine, which included suppression of disagreements. It also became a extensive package financial measures to combat the pandemic, and monthly payments for people who lost their income in a state of emergency in April and May.

A new normal for Kazakh citizens in the city of Nur-Sultan in June.
Turar Kazangapov

However, when the quarantine measures subsided, many Kazakh citizens ignored the socially distant guidelines. Lots underestimated the risks des Virus: They rushed to offices, cafes, pubs, parks and fitness centers. Families gathered for big weddings, birthdays, and funerals. Soon, initial optimism government's handling of the virus would be replaced by panic, helplessness, and disillusionment.

In June, Kazakhstan's former President Nursultan Nazarbayev tested positive for corona virus. Soon after, many ministers, MPs and local mayors tested positive and self-isolated. On June 25, Health Minister Yelzhan Birtanov reported that he had pneumonia due to a COVID-19 infection. announced his resignation.

Modeled on RussiaIn June, the Kazakh Ministry of Health began to record asymptomatic infections separately from the official number of coronavirus cases. The Government claimed that this was justified because symptomatic patients pose a greater epidemiological risk to others and require clinical observation. But on July 1, the Ministry of Health made a U-turn and started Update from COVID-19 Statistics without dividing the cases into symptomatic and asymptomatic, which increased the official number of cases.

Disinfection of a public bus in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan.
Turar Kazangapov

Rising anger

As a result of the increase in cases of coronavirus and pneumonia, citizens complained about crowded hospitals, lack of COVID-19 tests, long queues for testing laboratories and pharmacies and a Drug deficit.

Panic buying medication has led to speculation and the sale of drugs on the black market at much higher prices. When the pandemic broke out, Kazakhstan received international humanitarian support, including from the US, China and Russia. Now Social media has been flooded with photos of medicines bought in pharmacies, with stickers showing that they were donated as humanitarian aid and should therefore not be for sale.

Fireworks in the midst of mourning: On July 6, the capital city was celebrated in the city of Nur-Sultan.
Turar Kazangapov

communication has never been a strength of the Kazakh authorities. Online concerts and fireworks were organized on July 6 amid the pandemic and the grief of the citizens for their family members to celebrate Capital Day in Nur Sultan City, which coincided with that Nazarbayev's 80th birthday, known as the "leader of the nation". The official authorities said they hoped to cheer up medical staff at the forefront.

In response to the overwhelming public criticism, the Government declared July 13 a day of national mourning for COVID-19 victims. Such public recognition The failure of a Central Asian government is extraordinary.

Kazakh President Qasym-Jomart Toqayev, announced the possible resolution of the entire cabinet if the situation does not improve by the end of July.

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of a government that was built on endemic corruption, Patronage and personal loyalty to politicians. Kazakhstan is now paralyzed in a crisis that requires strong and effective government institutions, evidence-based decision making, and public accountability – none of which is the strength of this authoritarian government.

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