Kazakhstan to Reintroduce Two Week Lockdown to Deal With COVID-19 Spike

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan will introduce a two-week lockdown from July 5 onwards in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection that has surged rapidly in numbers over the last month.

Photo credit: Nur-Sultan Akimat press service

The Kazakh government commission adopted the decision on July 2, a few days after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev reprimanded state officials for failing to curb the coronavirus spread in the country and ordered the commission to develop a new plan. Kazakhstan currently has 42,573 cases and 188 deaths, while hospitals across the country warn they are at or near their full capacity, and the numbers continue to tick upwards. 

The commission ruled international air travel will remain as well as domestic air travel and railway, but bus routes between cities and regions will be suspended. The hours of public transport’s operation will also be cut.

Similar to what was put into place before, mass events, including sports and family events, forums and conferences, are now all banned. 

The commission allowed outdoor exercises and restricted group gatherings in streets, parks, and squares to a maximum of three people, while it also restricted people older than 65 years old from being able to go outdoors. 

Beauty salons, hair salons, gyms, swimming pools, food and non-food closed markets, beaches, aqua parks, cultural facilities, museums, entertainment centers, kindergartens and worship places will be closed for the duration of the lockdown as well. 

Medical centers will be allowed to continue working by appointment, as well as pharmacies, groceries and outdoor markets. Outdoor dining facilities, construction and industrial facilities, agricultural works, service firms, including car washes, car and household appliance repair firms, public service centers and second-tier banks will be working, but will have to comply with strict sanitary norms. 

All companies, however, should ensure at least 80 percent of their staff are working remotely.

The new lockdown is similar to the one the country had between March through May, but this new one should place less stress on the country’s economy.

“Several options were considered. Why did we choose a two-week lockdown? Firstly, we want to minimize the spread of the virus among the population, especially in social groups (families and companies). Secondly, the incubation period is two weeks. This is an important period that must be taken into account,” Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov said during a July 2nd press briefing, noting that the commission does not exclude the possibility of prolonging or tightening the lockdown measures if the situation does not improve.

In his Monday statement, Tokayev also instructed the healthcare services to increase the number of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests available nationwide. So far, 1.5 million PCR tests have been done in Kazakhstan, according to Kazakh Health Care Minister Alexei Tsoy. But with the surge in cases, available tests quickly dried up.

Tsoy assured the country that up to 35,000 tests will be done daily for people showing COVID-19 symptoms and those who were in contact with coronavirus patients. Computed tomography will also be done strictly based on doctors’ prescriptions. 

Officials also urged citizens not to rush to take the test or computed tomography in an effort to decrease the load on the health care system. 

Tugzhanov, however, noted ordinary Kazakh citizens do not follow the sanitary rules. 

“It is no secret that people have been secretly doing weddings, meeting with their families and doing get-together events. Because of their thoughtless actions, people end up in hospital beds, to say nothing of the fatal cases. Each of us should be responsible not only for our own health but also for the health of our loved ones,” said Tugzhanov.

He warned citizens that violating lockdown restrictions will be strictly punished with a fine of up to 83,340 tenge (US$205) for individuals and 638,940 tenge (US$1,570) for businesses caught breaking quarantine. 

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