Governments in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are adding pneumonia cases most likely caused by the coronavirus to their overall pandemic totals even though they were undetected at the time. The move, which will cause a jump in virus-related deaths, comes as many Central Asian nations struggle to curb the spread of the virus after easing restrictions.
Kazakh Health Minister Aleksei Tsoi said on July 17 that the number of people killed in Kazakhstan by pneumonia so far in 2020 was 3,327, out of a total of 234,000 cases in the Central Asian nation. Tsoi added that in the same period last year, the number of people killed by pneumonia was 1,896.
“From the last part of June, the number of cases of viral pneumonia from unknown causes has increased in Kazakhstan,” Tsoi said, noting that year-on-year, the number of cases was up by 1.75 times. A comparison of released Health Ministry data shows that for so far in July only 1,555 people died of pneumonia in Kazakhstan.
Tsoi also said that as of August 1, the country will start counting COVID-19 victims and people who died of pneumonia from unknown causes together as coronavirus victims.
Tsoi’s statement came after Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev called on the government “to clearly set its sights” on the situation around the rising number of deadly pneumonia patients who had tested negative for the coronavirus.
As of July 17, the number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan was reported at 65,188, including 396 deaths.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, health authorities said on July 16 that the sharply rising number of pneumonia victims in the country will be also counted and given along with the COVID-19 death toll.
The Health Ministry said on July 17 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country reached 13,101, of whom 6,096 patients recovered and 173 people died.
The number of individuals hospitalized with acute pneumonia but who tested negative for the coronavirus is 10,682, of whom 3,314 people recovered and 77 died.