Кazakh Ministry of Healthcare Announces Adoption of New WHO Disease Classification System to Combat COVID-19

NUR-SULTAN – As more information about the COVID-19 virus has become available, experts have realized that the virus behaves differently in each country. In some countries, the danger of coronavirus was underestimated, measures were taken with a delay and hundreds of thousands of cases were reported, leading to thousands of deaths. Kazakhstan was one of the first to close its borders, decisively introduce strict quarantine inside the country, and allocated huge anti-crisis funds to support the healthcare system and support the population.

Kazakh Minister of Healthcare Alexey Tsoy made an official statement with a new set of standards on recording and generating relevant data on the pandemic on July 17.

And thanks to this, Kazakhstan achieved considerable success – the сatastrophic spread of the dangerous disease was avoided, an effort which garnered praise from experts at the World Health Organization (WHO). Now, a new measure is being prepared to set Kazakhstan on sure footing for the next phase of the long struggle against COVID-19. 

In an official statement approved on July 17 by Kazakhstan and the WHO on COVID-19, the Kazakh Ministry of Healthcare came out with a new set of standards on recording and generating relevant data on the pandemic. These changes will come into force on July 18 of the current year. These changes were made taking into account technical consultations with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be combined with cases of pneumonia that show a negative PCR test result, but with symptoms that indicate the clinical and epidemiological signs of COVID-19.

According to the ministry, until now, in Kazakhstan, as in most countries, only laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded. However in June, an increase in viral pneumonia was noted without a specific identifying pathogen, that is, it remained laboratory unconfirmed. Going forward, the COVID-19 incidence rate and mortality statistics will be generated from two primary data sources: laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and cases of unspecified viral pneumonia. A full transition to the COVID-19 coding using the new international classification codes will be carried out by Aug. 1 of this year.

This new approach will make it possible to make correct forecasts of the incidence rate, adequately allocate necessary resources: medical personnel, beds, medical equipment, medicines, as well as ensure the transparency of the statistics. The ministry believes that the adoption of the WHO recommendations on international classifications for diseases will become an example for other countries to follow. This process goes hand-in-hand with educating healthcare providers on the correct assignment of ICD-10 COVID-19 codes, when appropriate, and ensuring that the public understands the process and its implications.

Key Takeaways

1. There is no new dangerous infection in Kazakhstan, all previously reported cases of detected pneumonia according to the WHO classification are now to be classified as COVID-19. Earlier, foreign media mistakenly reported on the appearance of some unknown disease in Kazakhstan. After a thorough investigation into the issue, the WHO confirmed that the summer outbreak of pneumonia in Kazakhstan was a result of COVID-19 (negative PCR test results, but with clinical and epidemiological signs of coronavirus).

2. Kazakhstan will continue to work closely with the WHO. Regular working consultations with the Organization help Kazakhstan to adjust its methodology for recording the development of the disease and to record its various forms. Until now, in Kazakhstan, as in most countries, only laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded. At the same time, since late June, an increase in viral pneumonia has been noted without the pathogen being specified, that is, it remained laboratory unconfirmed. Kazakhstan’s experience will be useful for those countries where now, according to WHO estimates, excess mortality has also been observed, and where it is most likely associated with COVID-19.

3. From July 18 of this year, COVID-19 morbidity and mortality statistics in Kazakhstan will be compiled from two data sources: laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and unspecified viral pneumonia. Such an accounting approach will make it possible to make better predictions of morbidity, and to adequately plan the necessary resources which include the allocation of medical personnel, hospital beds, medical equipment, medicines and will also increase the transparency of the statistics used to justify these measures. A complete transition in Kazakhstan to the new COVID-19 coding international coding system will be carried out from Aug.1 of this year.

4. In Kazakhstan, there is no new explosive increase in the COVID-19 epidemic and a critical increase in new cases of disease. The sharp uptick in the country’s COVID-19 rating is due to the technical re-definition of pneumonia cases to the new WHO classification of being COVID-19. The introduction of quarantine has stabilized the situation with the incidence of COVID-19 in the country, at present the increase rate in new cases remains at a stable 1,700-1,800 people per day.

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