Kazakhstan has extended its second coronavirus lockdown as the country observes a national day of mourning to honor victims of COVID-19 amid a spike of positive cases across Central Asia.
“There are first signs now that the situation is beginning to improve,” said President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev in a tweet on July 13. “The next two weeks are important for the full stabilization of the situation.”
National flags flew at half-staff, entertainment programs on television were suspended, and a minute of silence was held across the country at noon on July 13, while special ceremonies for deceased COVID-19 patients were held at mosques churches, and synagogues.
Toqaev issued decrees posthumously giving national Hero of Labor awards to two Kazakh physicians, Oleg Isaev from the northern city of Kokshetau, and Qalikhan Qozbagharov from the northwestern city of Aqtobe.
Both physicians died of COVID-19, which they contracted while treating coronavirus patients. In all, 28 medical personnel have died of COVID-19 in Kazakhstan since mid-March, health authorities said.
As of July 13, the number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan was reported to be 59,899, including 375 deaths.
In Kyrgyzstan, police detained on July 13 at least six activists who demanded the postponement of upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for October 4.
The activists had planned to bring some 500 protesters to the front of the presidential office in Bishkek, but after the city authorities warned that due to coronavirus restrictions the crowd could be no larger than 100 people, only dozens turned up to the site on July 13.
The activists also demanded that the government impose a state of emergency over the coronavirus and hold all officials who fail to curb the virus’s spread as responsible.
The protest came days after the office of Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov removed the president’s video statement on YouTube in which he addressed citizens calling them to unite in fighting the coronavirus in the country.
More than 4,000 Internet users disliked the July 9 video, adding comments harshly criticizing Jeenbekov for poor efforts to tackle the spread of the virus.
The video was removed from YouTube hours later and placed back the next day with the comments and like/dislike options switched off.
Nargiza Mansurova, the chief of the presidential office’s information policy department, told RFE/RL that the video was replaced with the comments option disabled because the majority of dislikes and “destructive comments” came from what she called “fake accounts.”
Kyrgyz health authorities said on July 13, that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 11,117, including 147 deaths.
However, officials also say that since March,452 individuals whose coronavirus tests had come back negative, died of pneumonia.
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
In Uzbekistan, where a second three-week lockdown was imposed on July 10 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, health authorities announced a list of special centers for COVID-19 tests that have started functioning In Tashkent, the capital.
According to the latest official data, the number of coronavirus cases in Uzbekistan has reached 12,855, including 59 deaths.
In Tajikistan, as of July 12, the number of coronavirus cases was reported as 6,522, including 55 deaths.
However, an investigative report by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service last month revealed that the real number of lethal cases of COVID-19 in the country might be several hundreds.
Turkmenistan is the only country in the region that did not officially register any coronavirus cases, but RFE/RL correspondents have reported that local hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients with pneumonia symptoms, some of whom, including medical personnel, have died.
In some parts of the country, so-called quarantine zones have been established and some industrial facilities are being shut down, RFE/RL correspondents report.
On July 6, a long-delayed mission from the World Health Organization arrived in the country with a 10-day visit to assess the situation and work with Turkmen officials to prevent any spread of the coronavirus in the country.
An Iranian lawmaker has died from the coronavirus, state media reported.
Issa Jafari is the third member of parliament to die of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in February.
The 59-year-old’s death was confirmed on July 13, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.
Fatemeh Rahbar, a lawmaker from the capital Tehran, and Mohammad Ali Ramezani, a lawmaker from northern Gilan Province, were two other lawmakers who died after contracting COVID-19.
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani tested positive in April but has since recovered.
On July 13, Iran’s Health Ministry reported a total of 13,032 deaths and 259,652 cases from the coronavirus.
Iran is one of the world’s worst-hit countries, and there are concerns that the actual figures are much higher.
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions mid-May, safety rules have increasingly been ignored, leading to a sharp rise in positive cases.
The Armenian government on July 13 moved to extend its state of emergency by another month due to the continuing coronavirus crisis in the country.
This is the fourth time Armenia, which has one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the world, has extended the state of emergency that was first declared in March.
The state of emergency allows authorities to enforce the mandatory wearing of face masks in public areas as well as other antivirus measures.
At a special government meeting, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that Armenia’s current legislation leaves no other option for the government to continue to fight the outbreak in an effective way.
“The constitution of our country requires that emergency measures be taken in case of threats to public health, but besides the state of emergency we have no other effective instrument. Consequently, if we do not extend the state of emergency, our anti-epidemic package of measures will lose its force de jure. That’s why we simply have to extend it,” Pashinian said.
However, Pashinian said that his government plans legislative changes that will make it possible to continue to fight the virus beyond August 12 without again extending the state of emergency.
“We understand that the state of emergency cannot and should not be extended indefinitely, and we have decided that a legislative package will be drafted in the meantime to enable us to use these instruments [against the outbreak] not under an extended state of emergency, but under an emergency situation which will imply a much lighter regime in terms of restrictions and will focus on anti-epidemic measures,” Pashinian said.
The extension of the state of emergency is scheduled to be discussed in parliament where Pashinian’s My Step bloc has a commanding majority.
Armenia, a country of about 3 million, has more than 32,000 confirmed cases so far.
The official COVID-19 death toll stands at 573 as of July 13.
The figure does not include 183 deaths that the Armenian Health Ministry says have been caused by preexisting conditions.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.