Kazakhstan is facing a deadly ‘unknown pneumonia’ more dangerous than coronavirus, China has claimed.
The alert comes as the Kazakh authorities have admitted both a ‘second wave’ spike in Covid-19 but also a sharp rise in pneumonia cases.
The Kazakh health ministry insisted on Friday the Chinese pneumonia claim was ‘not true’ despite an apparent surge in cases not confirmed as coronavirus.
And the ex-Soviet state has gone back into lockdown with the president issuing a ‘don’t panic’ message while also demanding strict adherence to lockdown rules.
Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry said it has recorded more than 32,000 cases of pneumonia between June 29 and July 5 alone, along with 451 deaths.
By comparison, the official number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan stands at 53,021, with 296 confirmed deaths from the disease.
Some 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are hospitalised in Kazakhstan, deputy health minister Azhar Giniyat said.
Pictures and video show relatives queuing outside a morgue in the largest city Almaty to collect the bodies of relatives.
Kazakhstan is facing a deadly ‘unknown pneumonia’ more dangerous than coronavirus, China has claimed. Pictures and video show relatives queuing outside a morgue in the largest city Almaty to collect the bodies of relatives
The Chinese embassy stated that Kazakhstan saw 1,772 pneumonia deaths in the first half of the year, including 628 in June, some of whom were Chinese nationals.
One of the pneumonia dead is chief sanitary doctor of Almaty region Kairat Baimukhambetov, 64, who had been a key figure in the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed on Friday.
China, which borders the country, has expressed deep concern over the ‘unknown pnuemonia’ and issued a warning from its embassy in the Kazakh capital Nursultan.
It alleged: ‘The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus.
‘The country’s health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus.’
While saying the Chinese reports were not true, the Kazakh health minister Alexei Tsoi acknowledged his country faced numerous cases of ‘viral pneumonia of unspecified etiology [cause]’.
As well as branding the Chinese media reports based on the embassy statement as ‘fake news’, the ministry said its tallies of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, which also included cases of unclear causes, were 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.
Some 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are hospitalised in Kazakhstan, deputy health minister Azhar Giniyat said. Pictured: One of the pneumonia patients at a hospital in Kazakhstan
On Tuesday, state news agency Kazinform said the number of pneumonia cases ‘increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019’.
The Global Times tabloid run by China’s People’s Daily has said Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry ‘did not respond to questions about the Chinese embassy’s warning’.
China went significantly further than Kazakhstan in its claims about the rampant pneumonia and so far there is no independent evidence on whether the cases are related to coronavirus or a separate strain.
Kazakhstan said it has not ruled out that those ill with the ‘mystery’ pneumonia could be suffering from Covid-19 but the initial tests are not showing the virus.
‘This is in principle permissible, because a coronavirus infection descends from the upper to the lower respiratory tract, and the PCR test does not always show a [positive] result,’ said chief sanitary officer Aizhan Esmagambetova.
A video filmed outside a morgue in Almaty shows a huge queue of people, most of whom are in masks, waiting to see relatives who have passed away from the ‘unknown’ pneumonia
‘Today we do not have data that would confirm that our tests are invalid or the studies are conducted with some errors,’ she added.
PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction and the test exists to determine whether or not someone has coronavirus.
Health officials admitted pneumonia cases had ‘increased 2.2 times in June compared to the same period of 2019’.
Saule Kisikova, health care department chief in capital Nursultan, told Kazinform news agency: ‘Some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia are being hospitalised every day.’
On top of this, the country – which also borders Russia – has just recorded a new daily record of coronavirus cases with an official rise of 1,962 on Thursday.
One of the pneumonia dead is chief sanitary doctor of Almaty region Kairat Baimukhambetov, 64, who had been a key figure in the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed on Friday
China pointed to evidence that Atyrau and Aktobe provinces and Shymkent city had seen significant spikes in pneumonia cases since mid-June.
Some 500 non-Covid-19 pneumonia cases had been recorded in the three places, with 30-plus patients in a critical condition.
Mangistau and Pavlodar regions have also seen a rise in deaths from pneumonia.
Aktobe, Karaganda, Zhambyl and Turkestan regions, and Shymkent city have seen a surge in hospitalisations with pneumonia.
The country is urgently purchasing an additional 1,600 ventilators and 800 ambulances to cope with the alarming increase, say reports.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokaev in a televised address warned: ‘It is now crucial to avoid panic in society.’
He blasted officials for failing to ensure restrictions were effective, claiming carelessness had led to the current crisis.
The Kazakh health ministry insisted on Friday the Chinese claim was ‘not true’ despite an apparent surge in cases not confirmed as coronavirus. Pictured: Two Kazakh doctors dressed in personal protective equipment walk through a hospital
‘We are essentially dealing with a second wave of coronavirus, coupled with a sharp increase in pneumonia infections,’ he said.
‘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,’ he said.
He demanded an end to the stockpiling of medicines.
There had been fears about his strongman predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev, 80, but he has been confirmed clear of Covid-19.
China’s warning about the mystery pneumonia is oddly reminiscent of when Chinese scientists announced to the world in January that they had discovered a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus that resembled pneumonia, now known as SARS-CoV-2.
There had been fears about his strongman predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev, 80, but he has been confirmed clear of Covid-19
It’s currently unclear why the Chinese embassy has described the pneumonia as ‘unknown’.
Diplomats urged Chinese nationals to take the same precautions as they were with coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan and has infected more than 12 million people around the globe.
This includes people not leaving their homes unless necessary, wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and washing hands thoroughly and often.
Chief sanitary officer Esmagambetova said the mortality rate from pneumonia has increased in Kazakhstan four times in June 2020 compared to the same time frame last year.
Chief sanitary officer Esmagambetova said the mortality rate from pneumonia has increased in Kazakhstan four times in June 2020 compared to the same time frame last year
She added that many of those who have fallen ill were not diagnosed with COVID-19, reported RT News.
Kazakhstan went into a strict lockdown on March 16, but later lifted many of the restrictions on May 11.
On Sunday, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev imposed a second round of restrictions after a surge in coronavirus cases.
On Thursday, Kazakhstani officials recorded 1,962 new COVID-19 cases, the highest-single day increase, Kazinform reported.
Tokayev said the nation was ‘in fact facing the second coronavirus wave coupled with a huge uptick in pneumonia cases,’ according to Russian news agency Tass.