Kazakhstan Begins Preparing For Second Lockdown After COVID-19 Surge Over Summer

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev publicly reprimanded state bodies for failing to address the COVID-19 pandemic consequences during a government meeting to discuss measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection and gave two days to state commission chaired by Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin to prepare a new plan to reintroduce a strict quarantine similar to the one that went into effect in spring as part of an effort to “take urgent measures to stabilize the current epidemiological situation,” reported Akorda press service.

Photo credit: Akorda.kz.

In a video conference with the country’s ministers and members of the government commission, Tokayev said that stringent lockdown measures between March and May bought time and delayed the peak of the pandemic. The easing of the lockdown on May 11, however, produced the opposite results, as the number of COVID-19 cases surged seven times since then and Tokayev said this was due to “poor work of government bodies.”

“We should note that the public administration system at the central and local level did not prepare for effective functioning beyond the state of emergency. The government commission did not manage to complete the task assigned to it. This must be acknowledged. The Ministry of Health Care failed to ensure the coordination of the work of the central and local authorities,” said Tokayev. 

The infection eventually started to spread within families and companies, said Tokayev, and noted the Tengiz field in the Atyrau Region, one of of the nation’s largest oil fields, which alone reported 1,222 COVID-19 cases

“In Almaty, there is a high incidence not only among citizens but especially among health workers. Many organizations in the capital continued to violate sanitary requirements. In the regions, there is an acute shortage of hospital beds, medical personnel, medicines, and medical equipment,” said Tokayev. 

The Kazakh President instructed the labs to work more efficiently on their research and to ensure a nonstop supply of reagents and consumables and said that there were plans to increase the number and capacity of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratories. He also gave instructions to increase the number of beds by 50 percent and warned about the consequences of the potential second wave of the pandemic. 

“Citizens are right to complain about huge queues near laboratories and non-compliance with sanitary rules in the queues. All this creates direct risks of contracting an infection. Therefore, a PCR test should be carried out strictly via online appointments or through a call center to prevent infection and ensure centralized distribution and control. It is extremely important to deploy mobile laboratories to work around the sites of infection, especially in rural areas, and to allocate funds for the development of mobile labs,” said Tokayev.  

The work on public awareness should be completely changed, he said, noting that at the initial stage, the state bodies were doing a good job, but eventually, they relaxed. 

“Mayors and ministers closed themselves off from the people. They do not react in time to citizens’ complaints, while many people are already desperate not knowing who to contact. Nearly 40,000 questions were submitted to www.coronavirus2020.kz  (Kazakhstan’s official website on coronavirus). Today, only a third were even addressed. This opens up an opportunity for fake news, and alternative theories that will only complicate our work,” he said. 

“Why not organize daily programs on TV channels, where doctors will give advice and answer the questions. It is necessary to explain treatment protocols and algorithms to citizens as well as to explain medicines,” said Tokayev.  

The success of such information work will play a key role in the fight against the coronavirus infection as a lot depends on well-informed decisions being taken.

The officials should also cut their “unnecessary spending on conferences, round tables, festive events, consulting and PR services,” while the funds should instead be used for real needs. 

It is equally important, he said, to maintain stable prices and access to food products and to ensure employment and economic activity. 

Tokayev cautioned the government to prepare for a long-term coronavirus pandemic and develop a national plan for the protection of life and health of the citizens for the near future.

“Yes, this is a dangerous disease that does not have a vaccine yet. But at the same time, no one should panic and moreover commit illegal actions, insult doctors, or violate the sanitary regime. Patients should not fall into anxiety and pessimism. Along with treatment, a good physical and mental condition facilitates quick recovery. I urge you to adhere to the recommendations and requirements of the Ministry of Health Care and sanitary doctors. All our efforts are aimed at preserving the main wealth of our country – the life and health of all Kazakh citizens,” he said. 

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