'Deadlier than COVID-19': 'Unknown’ pneumonia in Kazakhstan, warns China

The unknown pneumonia caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year

kazakh reuters A COVID-19 testing facility at Almaty in Kazakhstan | Reuters

China's embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday warned its nationals that a local pneumonia outbreak in the country had a "much higher" fatality rate than COVID-19.

China's Global Times reported that "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 publication claimed there has not been any indication the pneumonia was related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kazakhstan's Kazakh Telegraph Agency reported last week that 20 people had died of pneumonia in the country in one week.

“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,” The South China Morning Post quoted the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan as saying.

Global Times reported the embassy statement claimed "500 people have been infected with the pneumonia in three regions of Kazakhstan". According to reports, the areas seeing a spike in pneumonia cases are Atyrau, Aktobe and the city of Shymkent. As Kazakhstan shares a border with China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, experts have called for measures to prevent the possible spread of the pneumonia to China.

Kazakh news agency Kazinform reported on July 7 that the number of pneumonia cases “increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019 that is 1,700 cases." "Up to 200 people are admitted to hospitals every day. Over the last few days, some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia were taken to hospitals a day...," head of the healthcare department of Nur-Sultan, Saule Kissikova told Kazinform.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev referred to the surge in pneumonia cases. Tokayev claimed "We are in fact facing the second coronavirus wave coupled with a huge uptick in pneumonia cases..."

As of Wednesday, Kazakhstan had recorded 51,059 coronavirus cases and 264 fatalities from the pandemic.