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Former Kazakh President Nazarbaev Tests Positive For COVID-19

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev continues to wield considerable power.
Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev continues to wield considerable power.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who continues to control the Central Asian country after his sudden resignation last year, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nazarbaev's press service said on June 18 that the former president was currently self-isolated and continued to work remotely.

The 79-year-old Nazarbaev announced his resignation in March 2019 after ruling the oil-rich former Soviet republic for almost 30 years. But he continues to lead the ruling Nur-Otan party and the country's powerful Security Council.

He also enjoys the broad benefits of the title of "elbasy" -- the leader of the nation.

Nazarbaev's opponents say he de facto continues to run the country of 18 million by supervising the actions of incumbent President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.

Recently, Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov, the chairman of the parliament's lower chamber, Nurlan Nyghmatulin, presidential spokesman Berik Uali, and several other officials have also tested positive for the coronavirus.

After that, Prime Minister Asqar Mamin and four members of his government announced they were self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

Kazakhstan imposed a state of emergency over the pandemic on March 16 and lifted it on May 11. Since then, the government has been slowly removing restrictions to help stop the spread of the virus, but health authorities said on June 17 that the situation was getting "out of control."

On June 18, the government issued an order, according to which additional restrictions will be imposed this weekend for residents of the capital, Nur-Sultan, the country's largest city, Almaty, and four other cities -- Qaraghandy, Shymkent, Pavlodar, and Ekibastuz.

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The additional restrictions include the suspension of operations at large supermarkets, shopping malls, market places, and the limiting of public transportation.

Also, all parks, beaches, ski resorts, fitness clubs, swimming pools, and entertainment sites in those cities will be closed.

Only outdoor restaurants will be allowed to operate but they must follow social-distancing guidelines that require customers are kept at least 2 meters from each other.

Citizens older than 65 will be barred from leaving their homes.

The government also ordered local governors to expedite efforts to set up additional sites for coronavirus testing and shore up the capacity of medical institutions to deal with an increasing number of COVID-19 patients.

As of June 18, the total number of registered coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan was reported as 22,708, including 100 deaths. That is the highest number among the five Central Asian countries.

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