Kazakhstan health officials have denied a Chinese embassy's claims there's an unspecified pneumonia spreading in its country that's deadlier than COVID-19.
The Health Ministry said on Friday the information given by the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan was "incorrect". It claimed 1772 people died of pneumonia in Kazakhstan and 628 of these died in June alone, including Chinese citizens.
"That mortality rate of that disease is far higher than COVID-19 and Kazakhstan authorities are conducting a comparative study of the virus and there is no clear definition yet," the Chinese embassy said, according to the South China Morning Post.
But although the Chinese embassy said it was an "unknown pneumonia", Kazakhstan clarified it is instead just pneumonia.
The embassy initially referred to the virus as "Kazakhstan pneumonia" but later changed it to "non-COVID pneumonia".
Kazakhstan's Health Ministry said there was a presence of "viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology", but it denied the outbreak was new. It said the claims by "Chinese media" on the country's unspecified pneumonia infections aren't true.
"In response to these reports, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially declares that this information does not correspond to reality," it said.
The World Health Organisation sided with the Ministry, and said it's likely many pneumonia cases in Kazakhstan were COVID-19 but they were diagnosed incorrectly.
The number of pneumonia cases in Kazakhstan's capital Nursultan doubled in June 2020 compared with the same time last year, according to local news agency Kazinform.
"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," the head of Nursultan's healthcare department said, Kazinform reported.
The Chinese embassy warned locals to avoid crowded areas and limit how often they went outside. It also suggested people wear a mask, wash their hands often and let air circulate indoor areas.