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#Kazakhstan succeeds against the #coronavirus epidemic

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As many other countries around the world, Kazakhstan suffered a challenging situation regarding the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic towards the end of June and the first two weeks of July. The disease was spreading fast, hospitals were short on bed spaces and medical workers were struggling to keep up with the increasing number of infected people. The government had to take concrete and reactive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For this reason, lockdown measures were reintroduced on July 5.

Fortunately, the measures have had a desired effect. Within the last three weeks, there has been a significant, nearly two-fold decrease in daily coronavirus cases. This applies to almost all regions of the country. It is therefore possible to state with some caution that the situation has stabilised.

The current dynamics are a demonstration of this. To date (August 5), there are 94,882 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan, including 12,134 in Nur-Sultan, 12,640 in Almaty, and 5,025 in Shymkent. The nationwide COVID-19 death toll stands at 1,058. The number of patients who have recovered exceeds 67,000, which means approximately 28,000 people are still in the process of recovery. Progress is being made in this regard. Almost 1,900 people have recovered from the coronavirus infection in the past day.

There has also been substantial progress in terms of new daily cases. 1,062 positive cases were registered in Kazakhstan in the last 24 hours, 493 of them with no clinical symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. This is a major improvement compared to just a few weeks ago when up to 1,800 new cases were reported on a daily basis. There are also 18% less cases compared to last week. It is clear that the trend is going in the right direction.

The positive trend is also visible in other areas. For example, there has been a 40% decrease in the number of ambulance calls regarding COVID-19. The government has also managed to decrease the occupancy of infectious and provisional hospital beds. To date, occupancy at hospitals stands at approximately 34%. This was achieved by increasing the total bed capacity, which expanded to just under 50,000 beds.

Another important indicator is the reproduction rate of COVID-19. As of 4 August, Kazakhstan's reproduction rate for the coronavirus has dipped from 1.2 to 0.89 (a 24% reduction). According to the Health Minister, a figure below 1 can be considered a positive result at the current stage.

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It is worth noting that from August 1, Kazakhstan began including in the overall COVID-19 statistics patients with clinical symptoms of coronavirus, but with negative PCR test results. The new way of counting data will naturally show an increase in cases of coronavirus infection in the country. However, the reclassification will help to better understand the epidemic process, allocate resources and to more accurately plan the responses at the national and regional levels.

The decision to reclassify the data was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which also gave a positive assessment of the measures taken by the government in Kazakhstan. Doctor Caroline Clarinval, Head of the World Health Organisation Country Office in Kazakhstan, said recently that the implementation of comprehensive measures in Kazakhstan has contributed to the gradual stabilisation of the coronavirus situation in the country. This result required the joint efforts of civil society, health workers and the government. She added that the WHO appreciates Kazakhstan’s decision to use the new WHO disease classification for patients with suspected COVID-19. This is a critical step in determining whether patients have the coronavirus infection or another disease in order to standardise data collection around the world. The WHO representative also noted that the global health organisation supports Kazakhstan’s openness to information exchange.

It is well known that conducting tests is one of the ways to combat the spread of the epidemic. Kazakhstan has made substantial effort in this regard. As of 5 of August, 2.1 million tests have been carried out in the country. This amounts to 112,451 tests per one million population. This is on the same level as Canada, and higher than in Germany, Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands.

In addition, the development of a vaccine is considered by the global science community as a key step towards defeating the spread of COVID-19. Kazakhstan has been involved in this endeavour too. The Ministry of Health is actively working on the production of a Kazakh vaccine (registered by the World Health Organisation), which has already successfully passed pre-clinical trials in animals. Small human trials have also been carried out. The results thus far have been promising, with no adverse reaction to the vaccine. The pre-clinical trials will end on August 20, after which the obtained data will be provided to the Ministry of Health for further steps, including expanded human trials, which are currently planned to start in September and last till the end of the year.

Of course the situation is still not perfect, and it is vital not to become complacent. For this reason, on July 29, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered a two-week extension to the lockdown, in order to "further consolidate its positive effect." Some lockdown measures may be lifted on 17 August, however this will depend on how the situation unfolds. In addition, as exemplified by other countries, a second wave of the virus is always a possibility. Combined with the likelihood of increased number of influenza cases in autumn and winter, the country must remain vigilant and prepare ahead of time. For this reason, the government of Kazakhstan has been actively preparing for any possibility, including by constructing new hospitals and providing them with ventilators, oxygen concentrators, medical drugs and protective equipment.

Nevertheless, at least at the current stage the positive signs are clearly there. Even if a second wave arrives, the country will be ready. Thanks to the ongoing government measures, the citizens of Kazakhstan can be certain that all the necessary steps are being taken to protect their health and lives.

 

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