Authorities in Kazakhstan have denied a report published by Chinese officials that the country is experiencing an outbreak of “unknown pneumonia” potentially deadlier than the novel coronavirus.
On Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan issued a warning to citizens living in the Central Asian country that the pneumonia had killed more than 1,700 people.
“Kazakhstani Health Department and other agencies are conducting comparative research and have not defined the nature of the pneumonia virus,” the statement said.
New cases of the unidentified pneumonia have been increasing significantly since mid-June across the country, said the embassy, adding that in some places, authorities are reporting hundreds of new cases a day.
In a statement later on Friday, the Kazakhstan health ministry acknowledged the presence of “viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology,” but denied that the outbreak was new or unknown.
“In response to these reports, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially declares that this information does not correspond to reality,” the statement read.
It added the “unspecified” pneumonia classification followed World Health Organization guidelines “for the registration of pneumonia when the coronavirus infection is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically but is not confirmed by laboratory testing.”
According to the embassy, the rise was concentrated in the regions of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent, which together have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that Beijing needed more information from Kazakh authorities.
“For the specifics, I will refer you to the relevant authorities in Kazakhstan, we would also like to get more information,” a spokesperson said Friday.
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