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#Kazakhstan denies reports of ‘unknown pneumonia’ deadlier than #COVID-19



NoneAs Central Asia’s largest country with a population of almost 19 million, Kazakhstan imposed a second lockdown on July 5, after a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. And Kazakhstan’s health ministry has dismissed reports of an "unknown pneumonia" seen in a rising number of cases across several Kazakh cities, writes Nazrin Gadimova.
On Thursday last (9 July), the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan issued a warning to Chinese citizens residing in the Central Asian country that the number of new pneumonia cases has significantly increased in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June, referring to the Kazakh media as a source.

"The Kazakh Health Ministry and other healthcare agencies are conducting a comparative study on a pneumonia virus and have not yet determined its nature," the embassy said in a statement on its website.

The statement was later cited by some Chinese media outlets, including the South China Morning Post — a Hong Kong’s flagship English-language newspaper that claimed that the unidentified virus causing pneumonia is ‘‘deadlier than coronavirus sweeping Kazakhstan.’’

Kazakhstan’s health ministry was quick to react, branding Chinese media reports as "fake news".

"The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially declares that this information does not correspond to reality," reads the statement published to the ministry website on 10 July.

The document also noted that Kazakhstan keeps records of some pneumonia cases in line with 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."

Earlier this week, Alexey Tsoi, who heads the country’s health ministry, said health experts in Kazakhstan have recorded a sharp rise in the pneumonia cases apart from those caused by the novel coronavirus. "Minister Tsoi spoke about the total number of pneumonia cases in Kazakhstan caused by bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, including viral pneumonia of unspecified etiology" the ministry said.

According to the government data, over the first six months of the year the number of patients with pneumonia amounted to more than 98,000, 55% up as compared to the same period last year. At the same time, nearly 32,000 of those infected have been tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

‘‘This is acceptable because the coronavirus infection descends from the upper respiratory tract into the lower respiratory tract; in this case, the test does not always show a positive result,’’ Forbes Kazakhstan quoted Kazakhstan’s Chief Sanitary Officer Ayzhan Yesmagambetova as saying on 3 July.

According to Yesmagambetova, health-care experts in Kazakhstan are now working to define the cause of the increase in the pneumonia cases.

As Central Asia’s largest country with a population of almost 19 million, Kazakhstan imposed a second lockdown on July 5, after a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. The lockdown will last until July 19, with the possibility of being extended for another two weeks or longer, depending on the epidemiological situation in the country.

As of today, the novel coronavirus has infected 58,253 people and killed 264 in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan observed a national day of mourning on Monday (13 July) for the pandemic victims.


Commission approves modified Austrian liquidity assistance scheme to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak



The European Commission has found certain amendments to a previously approved Austrian liquidity assistance scheme to support Austrian enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak to be in line with the State Aid Temporary Framework. The original scheme was approved on 8 April 2020 under case number SA.56840, and provides for temporary limited amounts of aid in the form of (i) direct grants, (ii) guarantees on loans and repayable advances, and (iii) guarantees on loans and subsidized interest rates on loans.

The aim of the original scheme was to enable enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak to cover their short-term liabilities, despite the current loss of revenues caused by the pandemic. Austria notified certain modifications to the original scheme, in particular: (i)micro or small enterprises can now benefit from the measure even if they were considered in difficulty on 31 December 2019, under certain conditions; and (ii)an increase of €4 billion in the total budget of the scheme, from €15bn to €19bn.

The Commission concluded that the scheme, as modified, remains necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58640 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Conservative Party

Johnson to levy £10,000 fine on COVID-19 rule-breakers



People in England who break new rules requiring them to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 will face a fine of up to £10,000 ($12,914), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday (19 September), writes David Milliken.

The rules will apply from 28 September to anyone in England who tests positive for the virus or is notified by public health workers that they have been in contact with someone infectious.

“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines,” Johnson said in a statement.

Fines will start at 1,000 pounds for a first offence, rising to 10,000 pounds for repeat offenders or cases where employers threaten to sack staff who self-isolate rather than go to work.

Some low-income workers who suffer a loss of earnings will receive a £500 support payment, on top of other benefits such as sick pay to which they may be entitled.

Current British government guidance tells people to stay at home for at least 10 days after they start to suffer COVID-19 symptoms, and for other people in their household not to leave the house for 14 days.

Anyone who tests positive is also asked to provide details of people outside their household who they have been in close contact with, who may then also be told to self-isolate.

To date there has been little enforcement of self-isolation rules, except in some cases where people have returned from abroad.

However, Britain is now facing a rapid increase in cases, and the government said police would be involved in checking compliance in areas with the highest infection rates.

Johnson has also faced calls to reintroduce more wide-ranging lockdown rules for the general public.

However, the Sunday Times reported he was poised to reject calls from scientific advisors for an immediate two-week nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the disease, and instead reconsider it when schools take a late-October break.

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Ireland tightens Dublin COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge




The Irish government on Friday (18 September) announced strict new COVID-19 restrictions for the capital Dublin, banning indoor restaurant dining and advising against all non-essential travel, after a surge in cases in recent days. Ireland, which was one of the slowest countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown, has seen average daily case numbers roughly double in the past two weeks and significant increases in those being treated for the virus in hospitals, writes Conor Humphries.

“Here in the capital, despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised address to the country, announcing the restrictions.

“Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.” The measures, which include a ban on indoor events, will last for three weeks, he said. Ireland had the 17th highest COVID-19 infection rate out of 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control on Friday, with 57.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.

The government reported three deaths from the virus on Friday, bringing the total toll to 1,792. Countries across Europe, including Britain, Greece and Denmark, on Friday announced new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities. Ireland on Thursday tightened its COVID-19 travel restrictions by imposing quarantines on travellers from major holiday markets Italy and Greece.

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