“The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus. The country’s health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement.
However, Kazakhstani officials have denied that the pneumonia is of an unknown or new origin and are simply calling it regular pneumonia, according to CNN. In a statement on Friday, the Kazakhstan health ministry said: "In response to these reports, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially declares that this information does not correspond to reality."
The ministry added that the "unspecified" pneumonia classification followed 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."
The Chinese embassy’s website said the provinces of Atyrau and Aktobe and the city of Shymkent reported significant spikes in pneumonia cases since the middle of June. It added that the three regions combined have reported nearly 500 cases with over 30 in a critical condition.
The embassy further said that the country saw 1,772 pneumonia deaths in the first part of the year, 628 of which happened in June. “The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan reminds Chinese nationals here to be aware of the situation and step up prevention efforts to lower the infection risks,” the embassy statement said.
According to Kazakhstan's prominent news agency Kazinform, official data has revealed that the number of pneumonia cases in the capital city Nursultan has more than doubled this June from the same time last year.
"Up to 200 people are admitted to hospitals every day. Over the last few days, some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia were taken to hospitals a day. Besides some receive treatment at home," said the head of the Nursultan healthcare department, Kazinform reported.
This is bad news for a country already struggling with a COVID-19 crisis. Kazakhstan has had 49,683 cases of the virus, including 264 deaths.