Kazakhstan Enters Red Zone, as COVID-19 Cases Surge, Says Kazakh Healthcare Minister

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan has entered the red zone, as it continues to witness rising coronavirus cases, said Kazakh Healthcare Minister Alexey Tsoy during an expanded government meeting on Jan. 26 chaired by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

During the meeting. Photo credit: Akorda.kz. Click to see the map in full size.

According to the daily assessment of the epidemiological situation conducted by the ministry, there are eight regions in the red zone – Akmola, Atyrau, Kostanai, Pavlodar, West Kazakhstan, and North Kazakhstan regions and the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty.

The Karaganda and Almaty regions are in the yellow zone, while other regions remain in the green zone.

“Since November, there has been a growth in coronavirus cases. There was a 1.2-fold increase in December compared to November. The growth continues in January. 24,247 new cases have already been registered in January,” said Tsoy.

Globally, Kazakhstan is in the 109th place out of 221 countries in terms of COVID-19 cases per 1 million of the population. It ranks 97th in terms of morbidity rate, 69th in terms of testing coverage, 87th in the number of recovered patients and 50th in terms of the number of severe cases.

Tsoy said the stabilization funds are ready in all regions accumulating medicines worth 17 billion tenge (US$40.3 million) to ensure the sufficiency of medicines. 

“Four hubs of a single distributor (SK Pharmacy company) possess a two-month renewable stock of COVID-19 medicines, 10 million masks and 400 thousand personal protective equipment units. Testing capacity increased from 40,000 to 100,000 tests per day,” said Tsoy.

Mass vaccination is expected to begin Feb. 1 with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and the plan is to immunize up to six million citizens in 2021.

Tsoy also recalled the ministry’s projections prepared by a working group through 2021. 

The coronavirus may peak in March, he said, given the current restrictions in place, including mandatory mask regimes and only if citizens practice social distancing and other precautions.

“In the optimistic scenario, we expect up to 3,000 cases per day, and hospital bed occupancy reaching 24,000. In the pessimistic scenario, nearly 9,000 cases are expected daily, and up to 45,000 beds could be occupied, which may require the introduction of strict quarantine measures to avoid overload on the healthcare system,” said Tsoy.

Speaking at the meeting, Tokayev said the country’s healthcare system had a heavy toll from the coronavirus infection last year.

“All systemic problems in the field were revealed. At the same time, it caused damage to other medical services, which immediately affected the health of the population,” said the Kazakh president.

He instructed the government to analyze the credibility of the coronavirus statistics.

“It is necessary to urgently conduct a statistically reliable study to get the real picture of the coronavirus incidence across all regions and age groups. It should be done within a month and must be updated regularly,” he said.

There have been 181,117 coronavirus cases since the first case was reported in March 2020. 2,510 people died from it. The country also had 47,575 coronavirus pneumonia cases that it has registered since Aug.  1, 2020, and 559 people who died from it.  

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