Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan urges caution following reports of 'unknown pneumonia'

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/9 21:33:40 Last Updated: 2020/7/10 12:50:40

Photo taken on April 19, 2020 shows a ward of a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has built a makeshift hospital to treat COVID-19 patients in 13 days in Nur-Sultan, the developer BI Group announced on Tuesday. (BI Group/Handout via Xinhua)

The Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday warned Chinese citizens living in the country of a local pneumonia of unknown cause, which local media reported has a "much higher" fatality rate than COVID-19.

The unknown pneumonia in Kazakhstan caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year, including 628 people in June alone, including Chinese citizens, the embassy said in a statement on its WeChat platform on Thursday, citing Kazakh media reports.

The fatality rate of the disease is much higher than COVID-19, and organizations including Kazakhstan's health department are studying the "virus of this pneumonia," the embassy quoted media.

There hasn't been any indication whether this disease is related to the COVID-19.

Some Chinese experts said that measures should be taken to prevent the pneumonia from spreading into China. Kazakhstan borders Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The embassy is reminding Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan to raise their awareness of measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The embassy quoted local media as saying that since mid-June, almost 500 people have been infected with the pneumonia in three regions of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan's healthcare minister said on Wednesday that the number of patients sickened by the pneumonia is two to three times more than those who have been infected with COVID-19, Kazakh news agency Kazinform reported.

The minister said that it plans to publish accurate tallies of confirmed cases as early as next week, noting that while it's not necessary to publish the number, the public needs to know the true situation, Kazinform reported.

According to official data, the number of pneumonia cases is 2.2 times greater this June than it was in 2019 when there were 1,700 cases, said the English version of the Kazinform report, which lacked details.

Kazakhstan has reported 51,059 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 264 deaths as of press time, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus resource center.

"The COVID-19 situation in Kazakhstan is under control," reads a statement sent by an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan to the Global Times on Thursday. 

The ministry's statement didn't respond to questions about the Chinese embassy's warning of the unknown pneumonia. 

Over 1.6 million people have been tested for COVID-19 in Kazakhstan. Currently, the country is carrying out almost 90,000 tests per one million population (almost 14,000 tests per day), which is more than France, Germany, Canada and many other countries. There are over 50,000 cases of COVID-19 currently registered in Kazakhstan, including more than 25,000 with symptoms, and more than 23,000 who are asymptomatic, reads the statement. 

Kazakhstan has required medical and economic resources to win the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus and return to normalcy, it says.

The unknown pneumonia has stirred heated discussions among Chinese netizens who remain anxious about the coronavirus pandemic. 

As of press time, more than 370 million netizens read posts with the hashtag "pneumonia of unknown cause reported in Kazakhstan" on China's Sina Weibo. "What has happened to earth in 2020? First, the COVID-19 and now another pneumonia? All we want for the year is to live safely," wrote a netizen.

Some were concerned the unknown pneumonia may affect Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which shares the border with Kazakhstan. 

In January, Kazakhstan suspended all cross-border buses with China, and cancelled flights between the countries on February 3.

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