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Kazakh Health Minister Replaced As Coronavirus Cases Surge


Kazakh Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov is currently being treated for COVID-19. (file photo)

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has replaced the Central Asian nation's health minister amid a surge in coronavirus cases and renewed lockdowns.

Toqaev on June 25 relieved Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov, who is being treated for COVID-19, of his duties and appointed Aleksei Tsoi as his replacement.

The reshuffle at the Health Ministry comes a week after 79-year-old former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who continues to wield influence in the country after his sudden resignation last year, tested positive for the coronavirus.

The former president was only the latest top official to test positive for the coronavirus, including the chairman of the parliament's lower chamber, Nurlan Nyghmatulin, presidential spokesman Berik Uali, and several other government figures.

Prime Minister Asqar Mamin and four members of his government are now self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

Kazakhstan imposed a state of emergency over the pandemic on March 16 and lifted it on May 11.

But in response to a surge in cases and hospitalizations the government has now again locked down several towns and introduced new health measures.

According to the latest official data, Kazakhstan registered more than 31,000 coronavirus infections and 136 deaths, although both figures are believed to be higher.

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