Chinese officials warn of 'unknown pneumonia' deadlier than Covid-19

Kazakhstan has over 53,000 confirmed cases of pneumonia. Credit: Associated Press

Chinese officials have warned that an "unknown pneumonia" potentially more deadly than coronavirus is circulating in Kazakhstan, according to media reports.

Chinese state newspaper The Global Times reported that the unidentified disease caused almost 1,800 deaths in the first half of 2020, including over 600 people in June alone.

In a statement on its WeChat platform on Thursday, the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan said the fatality rate of the disease is much higher than Covid-19, and organisations including Kazakhstan's health department are studying the "virus of this pneumonia".

It is not clear whether the disease is related to Covid-19.

The number of pneumonia cases in capital city Nur-sultan have more than doubled this June from the same time last year, according to Kazakhstan news agency Kazinform, which cited official data.

"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.

The Chinese embassy has urged its citizens in Kazakhstan to be cautious of the disease.On Friday, Kazakhstan's Ministry of Healthcare denied reports of the outbreak, saying they are "not consistent with reality".

The ministry said it had classified as pneumonia cases where coronavirus symptoms were detected but the patient tested negative. Officials insist that this procedure complies with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

"Kazakhstan, like other countries of the world, keeps records and monitoring of this kind of pneumonia", the ministry said.

In the past five months, there have been 53,021 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kazakhstan, with 296 deaths.

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