03/26/2020, 09.25
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Central Asia caught in the coronavirus whirlwind

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Kazakhstan announces 49 cases; Kyrgyzstan 42; Uzbekistan 55. Quarantine, military control and economic aid. Nur-Sultan promises 300 billion tenge (about 700 million dollars) to create 200 thousand new jobs. In Almaty car processions with the relic of the Cross and of saints Nicholas and Luka Vojno-Jasenetskij.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The coronavirus has now also reached Kazakhstan. 49 cases have been ascertained since mid-March: 22 in Almaty, 25 in the capital Nur-Sultan and 2 in Karaganda, the country's third largest city.

President Kasym-Zhomart Tokaev has proclaimed a state of emergency, calling on everyone to observe strict measures in the fight against the pandemic and promising economic support for country's health system and internal market. In particular, 300 billion tenge (about 700 million dollars) will go towards creating 200 thousand new jobs of social interest.

The arrival of the coronavirus was expected in Kazakhstan as early as March 10, when the head of the health service Zhandarbek Bekshin, based on mathematical analyzes, stated that according to specialists, the new disease would "finally" manifest itself in the country between March 11th and 16th. Because of his explicit and "brutal" statements, Bekshin was later downgraded to vice-president of the service, whose guidance passed to Dr. Ajzhan Esmagambetov.

The source of the national contagion seem to have been two Kazakh citizens who returned from Germany on 13 March, and two other women who returned from Milan via Moscow on the same day. Two days later the first containment and closure measures were introduced, especially in the capital Nur-Sultan.

The minister of commerce said that special prices will be imposed for most industrial products, even if this "violates the rules of the market economy".

Since March 23, the Minister for Social Development, Dauren Abaev, has been holding regular press conferences with journalists to inform the population of the evolution of the crisis. Foreigners residing in Kazakhstan for work have had their residence visa extended for 30 days. The sale of food products was rationed (for example, you cannot buy more than 5 liters of oil and 5 kilos of refined products such as sugar, flour and cereals).

Hospitals have introduced quarantine for all patients, with a ban on visiting the sick for anyone other than a doctor or paramedic; photographs and videos are also prohibited in hospitals and treatment centers. Faced with the probable spread of the virus, the next level of safety measures includes curfew for everyone and the transformation of hotels into hospitals; the burial modalities of the deceased will be decided by the state and local administrative bodies. The government of Kazakhstan has also decided to block the import of gasoline and other fuels from Russia for three months, due to the decrease in their use.

The Russian Orthodox metropolitan of Almaty, Aleksandr (Mogilev), the country's highest Orthodox ecclesiastical authority, began a regular procession by car around the city on Tuesday, reciting a special moleben for release from the epidemic and sprinkling the territory with water holy.

Sacred objects such as the cross with the relic of the Holy Cross of Christ, the casket with a fragment of the belt of the Virgin and others with the relics of St. Nicholas and other saints, such as the famous doctor and Saint Luka (Vojno -Jasenetsky), apostle of Central Asia during the period of the Stalinist purges.


Even Kyrgyzstan, in the midst of a "spring revolution" against the ruling regime, has strengthened the control measures that were already in place due to the street demonstrations in recent weeks. The government has deployed special army divisions around major cities (Biškek, Osh, Jalal-abad and the provinces of Nookat, Kara-Suysk and Suzak). A curfew was imposed in all these areas from 8.00 pm to 7.00 am, with a total ban on going out on the street without special permission. 42 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the country.

In Uzbekistan, a special verification system has been developed for the presence of coronavirus in people, as reported by the local health ministry. Previously it took a month to process tests, now they have developed a procedure that takes 5-6 hours.

In fact, this is not a rapid test, but a complete verification that can only be carried out in specific laboratories. 55 cases of coronavirus have occurred in the country, as the main Kazakhstan epidemiologist Nurmat Otabekov reported, 4 of whom are in intensive care. One of the infected, a 20-year-old young woman, did not travel outside in the country, nor did she come into contact with people who came from abroad.

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