The Kazakhstan Ministry of Health on Friday denied claims from Chinese officials about an “unknown pneumonia” that could be deadlier than the coronavirus sweeping across the country.
The Chinese embassy on Thursday had issued a warning on its website to citizens of the Central Asian country that the pneumonia had killed 1,772 people.
However, the country’s health ministry described the report by the embassy as “not consistent with reality.”
“The Kazakhstan Ministry of Health and other institutions are conducting a comparative study on the pneumonia virus, and no definitive determination has been made,” the embassy said in a statement.
New cases of the pneumonia have been rising significantly since mid-June, the embassy said, noting that authorities are reporting hundreds of new cases daily in some areas. The increase in cases reportedly has been localized in the regions of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent, which collectively have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients.
In June alone, the unknown pneumonia killed 628 people, some of whom were Chinese citizens, the embassy’s warning says.
The health ministry in Kazakhstan attributes the increase in pneumonia cases due to the inclusion of classifying pneumonia cases where COVID-19 was diagnosed clinically but not laboratory confirmed, which follows guidelines from the World Health Organization.
“In this regard, Kazakhstan, like other countries of the world, keeps records and monitoring of this kind of pneumonia, in order to make timely managerial decisions aimed at stabilizing the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19,” the ministry said on its website.
As of Friday, the coronavirus had infected more than 54,700 people and killed more than 260 in Kazakhstan, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows.
Hours after posting the warning, the Chinese embassy appeared to drop the words “new” and “unknown” from the statement, according to Radio Free Europe, although several media outlets already reported on the “unknown pneumonia.”
The embassy’s message urges Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan to pay attention to the situation and to take precautionary measures such as minimizing outings, avoiding crowded public places, practicing good hygiene and wearing face masks when going out.