Kazakhstan to Reopen Religious Gathering Places and Cafes At Limited Capacity

After nearly two months in lockdown, life in Kazakhstan is slowly returning to normal, as Kazakhstan moves to reopen places of worship, hotels, small cafes, and summer terraces by May 18. Starting on May 13, domestic flights resumed between Shymkent, Aktau, Uralsk, Zhezkazgan, Balkhash, Urdzhar, and Zaisan.

People taking a walk along Republic Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Nur-Sultan. Photo credit Nur-Sultan Akimat.jpg

The interdepartmental commission chaired by Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov gathered on May 13 to revise lockdown restrictions and adopt economic decisions meant to begin helping the economic sectors start recovering.

Cafes with no more than 30 seats and outdoor dining places will be allowed to reopen. Some continued working amid lockdown relying on takeaway orders, while others decided to close entirely. Coffee shops in Kazakhstan’s biggest cities also started to sell coffee, but only as takeaway. 

Places of worship will be able to open but will only be filled up to 30 percent of their capacity. This may come as a relief for many people, who had to mark important religious dates privately at home, as hundreds of thousands in Kazakhstan celebrated Easter and began the holy month of Ramadan under lockdown. 

Public ransportation resumed in the Kazakh capital and more cars are now on the road causing traffic jams. Photo credit Nur-Sultan Akimat.jpg

Passenger trains will start operating June 1 on the country’s 54 routes and the tickets can be booked starting May 15. The government said strict sanitary rules must be followed. 

Public transportation also resumed in Nur-Sultan and Shymkent, though many were still wary of using it. Fares must now be paid by card to avoid contact. 

Domestic flights resumed on May 1 between the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan and its largest city Almaty to support the aviation industry that lost 300 billion tenge (US$708 million) since its standstill in March. 

Passengers checking in for the first flight since lockdown was eased at Nur-Sultan airport. Photo credit Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development

Flights also re-opened on May 5 between Semey, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Petropavlovsk, Kyzylorda and May 11 to Aktobe, Pavlodar, Taraz, Karaganda, Taldykorgan, Kokshetau, and Kostanay. 

Though initially, the officials obliged passengers to present a COVID-19 negative certificate, the requirement was canceled on May 11. Passengers are still required to pass temperature checks, wear protective masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers.

The loosening of restrictions is part of Kazakhstan’s gradual opening plan. Yet the number of coronavirus cases is not going down yet. As of May 14, Kazakhstan had 5,571 confirmed cases. 

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