China has raised an alarm over a mystery pneumonia, deadlier than COVID-19, rocking neighbours Kazakhstan.
The alert comes as the Kazakh authorities admitted both a ‘second wave’ spike in Covid-19 but also a sharp rise in pneumonia cases.
The Kazakh health ministry insisted on Friday the Chinese pneumonia claim was ‘not true’ despite an apparent surge in cases not confirmed as coronavirus.
And the ex-Soviet state has gone back into lockdown with the president issuing a ‘don’t panic’ message while also demanding strict adherence to lockdown rules.
Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry said it has recorded more than 32,000 cases of pneumonia between June 29 and July 5 alone, along with 451 deaths.
By comparison, the official number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan stands at 53,021, with 296 confirmed deaths from the disease.
Some 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are hospitalised in Kazakhstan, deputy health minister Azhar Giniyat said.
The Chinese embassy stated that Kazakhstan saw 1,772 pneumonia deaths in the first half of the year, including 628 in June, some of whom were Chinese nationals.
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 coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed on Friday.
China, which borders the country, has expressed deep concern over the ‘unknown pnuemonia’ and issued a warning from its embassy in the Kazakh capital Nursultan.
It alleged: ‘The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus.