MOSCOW - Kazakhstan's health officials on Friday dismissed a Chinese claim that the Central Asian country is facing an outbreak of pneumonia more deadly than the new coronavirus.
The Kazakh denial follows a notice issued Thursday by the Chinese embassy's that warned its citizens about an outbreak of pneumonia in the ex-Soviet nation with a death rate higher than that from coronavirus-induced pneumonia.
“This information doesn't conform to reality,” Kazakhstan's Health Ministry said in a statement.
A file image shows the novel coronavirus under a microscope. (Photo by: Cavallini James/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
It noted that the country's statistics on pneumonia include patients who tested negative for the coronavirus but had symptoms compatible with COVID-19.
According to official data, the number of pneumonia cases has increased by 55% in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2019 — from 63,436 to 98,546.
However, Health Minister Alexei Tsoi said at a briefing Thursday, mortality from pneumonia this year fell from last year's levels — from 1,780 deaths in the first half of 2019 to 1,172 in the first half of this year.
The energy-rich Central Asian nation quickly introduced regional lockdown and travel restrictions to stem the coronavirus pandemic, but it has faced a rise in infections after it lifted the restrictions in May.
In late June, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev fired the nation's health minister, blaming him for flaws that helped trigger a second wave of contagion.
Kazakh authorities have imposed a two-week nationwide lockdown starting Sunday to contain the outbreak.
The country so far has registered over 53,000 cases, including 264 deaths.
Asked to comment on Kazakhstan's denial of the Chinese embassy's claim, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian refrained from comment, saying that Beijing hopes to receive more information.
“China looks forward to continuing cooperation with Kazakhstan to jointly fight the epidemic and safeguard public health in both countries,” he said.