Kazakhstan Considers Tightening Restrictions as Omicron Variant Spreads Globally

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan is set to tighten its coronavirus restrictions starting from Jan. 5, 2022, as a result of the omicron variant causing a global surge in coronavirus cases.

Starting from Jan. 5, only citizens who can prove recent recovery from COVID-19 or provide proof of a full vaccination course will be able to access trade malls and karaoke bars. The country uses its own Ashyq system that connects with the database of the Ministry of Health to display the status of citizens when they scan a QR code at a venue entrance. The color-coded system can show green (recent recovery, recent PCR test, or full vaccination), blue (neutral), yellow (contact with an infected person), or red status (positive PCR test). 

The officials also warn that the restrictions could extend to other venues, including banks and post services if the omicron variant is confirmed in the country. 

Over the past two weeks, the incidence of coronavirus infection decreased by 32 percent, Acting Health Minister Zhandos Burkitbayev told a government meeting on Tuesday. “The epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan is stable,” he said.

As of Dec. 30, nearly nine million people of the country’s 19 million population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 8.5 million people have been fully immunized against the virus. Since the beginning of the mass vaccination effort in February, 95 percent of subsequent coronavirus patients were not vaccinated. 

“Taking into account the surge in cases around the world and the omicron variant, it is necessary to increase the rate of vaccination of the population and complete vaccination of the subject population,” said Burkitbayev.

As countries around the world struggle to curb the spread of the omicron variant, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns of a higher transmission rate of the new variant. 

“Delta and Omicron are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalization and deaths. (…) I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” he told a press briefing on Wednesday. 

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