A Chinese embassy has issued a warning about a deadly “unknown pneumonia” circulating in Kazakhstan, but authorities outside of China say these cases are still likely COVID-19.
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 today insisted the Chinese claim was “not true” despite an apparent surge in cases not confirmed as coronavirus.
And the ex-Soviet state has gone into lockdown with the president issuing a “don’t panic” message while also demanding strict adherence to the rules.
Some 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are hospitalised in Kazakhstan, says deputy health minister Azhar Giniyat.
A picture shows relatives queuing outside a morgue in the largest city Almaty to collect the bodies of relatives.
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 pandemic, it was confirmed today.
China, which borders the country, has expressed deep concern over the “unknown pneumonia” and issued a warning from its embassy in capital Nursultan alleging: “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”.
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 today 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.
“Today we do not have data that would confirm that our tests are invalid or the studies are conducted with some errors,” she added.