Kazakhstan dismisses China’s warnings about pneumonia outbreak; situation ‘on our radar’, says WHO’s Mike Ryan

Kazakhstan dismissed as incorrect a warning by China’s embassy of a local pneumonia outbreak it claimed was more lethal than the coronavirus

Reuters July 12, 2020 09:57:45 IST
Kazakhstan dismisses China’s warnings about pneumonia outbreak; situation ‘on our radar’, says WHO’s Mike Ryan

Geneva: Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme, said on Friday that an outbreak of pneumonia in Kazakhstan, reported to be highly lethal, was “certainly on our radar”.

But he also said it was possible it might be COVID-19. “The upward trajectory of COVID-19 in the country would suggest that many of these cases are in fact undiagnosed cases of COVID-19,” he told an online briefing from Geneva.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan dismissed as incorrect on Friday a warning by China’s embassy for its citizens to guard against an outbreak of pneumonia in the central Asian nation that it described as being more lethal than the coronavirus.

In a statement late on Thursday on its official WeChat account, the Chinese embassy flagged a “significant increase” in cases in the Kazakh cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June.

On Friday, however, Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry branded 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.

Kazakhstan, which imposed a second lockdown this week to rein in the pandemic, has a tally of almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962.

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”.

In its statement, the Chinese embassy had said pneumonia in Kazakhstan killed 1,772 people in the year’s first half, with 628 deaths in June, including Chinese citizens. “The mortality rate of the disease is much higher than that of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus,” it said.

It is unclear whether the penumonia it referred to was caused by a virus related to coronavirus or a different strain.

Kazakhstan’s health ministry and other health institutions were carrying out a “comparative study”, but no conclusions had yet been made, the embassy added.

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”.

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