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World News

Kazakhstan implements second lockdown after COVID cases surge

NUR-SULTAN (Reuters) - Kazakhstan will implement a second, softer lockdown for two weeks from July 5 to help combat a surge in coronavirus cases, the government said on Thursday.

Authorities will close some non-essential businesses, limit travel between provinces, cut public transit services’ hours of operation and ban public gatherings. The measures may be tightened or extended later, the cabinet said in a statement.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered new curbs after coronavirus cases in the Central Asian country rose more than sevenfold following the lifting of its first, more restrictive lockdown in mid-May. [L8N2E63SP]

This time the former Soviet republic of 19 million people will maintain air and railroad links between its provinces and air links with a limited number of countries.

Also unlike previously, Kazakhs will be allowed to leave their homes for walks but only in groups of no more than three, and cafes and restaurants will be able to stay open if they have outdoor seating.

The oil-exporting nation bordering Russia and China has confirmed more than 42,000 COVID-19 cases with 188 deaths and reported that hospitals were full in some major cities.

It has also reported an alarming rise in the number of pneumonia cases without a confirmation of COVID-19 which quadrupled year-on-year in June to 32,724.

“Over the last day, 10 patients have died from COVID-19 and 20 from pneumonia,” healthcare minister Alexei Tsoy told a briefing.

Neighbouring countries Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have also reported a spike in new cases after ending lockdown and are again tightening restrictions. Kyrgyzstan has also noted a surge in pneumonia cases.

Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by John Stonestreet, Kirsten Donovan

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