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International News

Kazakhstan Denies Chinese Report of 'Unknown Pneumonia

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Kazakhstan Denies Chinese Report of 'Unknown Pneumonia

2020-07-10 18:08:05

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Kazakhstan (Image source: Public domain)

Perhaps China is trying to throw some of the heat it's been taking somewhere else. After being widely viewed as the originator of the global coronavirus pandemic, Chinese officials published a report that Kazakhstan is experiencing an outbreak of "unknown pneumonia" that is potentially deadlier than COVID-19.

The Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday issued a warning to its citizens that live in Kazakhstan that this unknown pneumonia had killed more than 1,700 people.

"Kazakhstani Health Department and other agencies are conducting comparative research and have not defined the nature of the pneumonia virus," read the statement. It added that new cases have been increasing significantly since mid-June. In some places, authorities are reporting hundreds of new cases a day.

The Kazakhstan health ministry acknowledged the presence of "viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology," in a statement on Friday but denied the outbreak is 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 health ministry said in its statement.

It added that the "unspecified" pneumonia classification followed the guidelines of the World Health Organization "for the registration of pneumonia when the coronavirus infection is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically but is not confirmed by laboratory testing."

The embassy explained the rise in this pneumonia is focused in the Atyrau, Aktobe, and Shymkent regions. Together, they have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients.

It was further stated by the embassy that this pneumonia killed 1,772 people this year, including some Chinese citizens. Six hundred twenty-eight of those deaths took place in June. "This disease is much deadlier than COVID-19," said the embassy.

Cases in the capital city Nursultan more than doubled in June from the same time last year, according to Kazakhstan's Kazinform news agency, citing official data.

The news agency reported that the head of the Nursultan healthcare department said, "Up to 200 people are admitted to hospitals every day. Over the last few days, some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia were taken to hospitals a day. Besides, some receive treatment at home."

The Chinese embassy warned residents in the area to limit their time outside and to avoid public areas and encouraged preventative measures such as wearing a mask, using disinfectant, frequently washing hands, and allowing good air circulation indoors, all the same recommendations for coronavirus.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, when asked about the pneumonia outbreak, told reporters, "We would also like to get more information. China hopes to work together with Kazakhstan to fight the epidemic and to safeguard the two countries' public health security."

The Kazakhstan Health Ministry posted to social media that Minister Aleksey Tsoy had talked about a number of pneumonia cases nationwide at a Thursday briefing. The cases were bacterial, fungal, and viral pneumonia.

Tsoy mentioned in the briefing that all registered cases of pneumonia in Kazakhstan rose by more than 300 percent in June compared to June 2019, from 7,964 last year to 32,724 in 2020. Deaths related to the disease increased by 129 percent, from 274 in June 2019 to 628 in June 2020.

Kazakhstan is also continuing to deal with a rise in its COVID-19 cases. 53,021 people have been infected in the country, with 264 dying, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the current chairman of the country's Security Council, tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

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