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COVID-19: Kazakh Ex- President Reportedly Cured Days Before 80th Birthday As Restrictions Reimposed

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A health worker takes a swab from a woman at a mobile testing station in Almaty.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is over 510,000, with more than 10.7 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Kazakhstan

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who continues to play a major role in ruling the country even after his sudden resignation last year, has reportedly recovered after contracting the coronavirus.

Spokesman Aidos Ukibai wrote on Twitter that Nazarbaev's latest coronavirus test came back negative on July 2, just four days before his 80th birthday.

"In accordance with doctors' recommendations, Nursultan Nazarbaev continues to with a self-isolation regime, working remotely, and frequently walking in fresh air," Ukibai wrote.

Nazarbaev will turn 80 on July 6, a day marked in the Central Asian country as the Day of the Capital, which many consider a way to celebrate Nazarbaev's birthday on a national level. The day after his sudden resignation in March 2019, Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan after the former leader.

However, this year, starting on July 5, all mass gatherings and celebrations have been banned for at least two weeks due to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases across the country.

Nazarbaev was first reported as infected with the coronavirus on June 18.

His resignation more than a year ago after ruling the oil-rich former Soviet republic for almost 30 years came as surprise. 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 actions of incumbent President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.

Meanwhile, the reimposed restrictions include a ban on public events, entertainment, sports events, and mass celebrations of family events or commemorations. Limitations on the movement of people will also be implemented.

Outdoor gatherings of more than three people will be prohibited.

"The banned activities will include operations of beauty salons, hairdressers, fitness centers, gyms, indoor and outdoor markets, beaches, aquaparks, all cultural [places of interest], museums, exhibition halls, conferences, mosques and churches, preschool institutions, cinemas, children's summer camps, etc.," the government said in a statement, adding that at least 80 percent of employees of state organizations and companies will work remotely.

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Prime Minister Asqar Mamin said at the government's July 2 session that the two-week quarantine may be extended for another 14-day period or tightened further if need be.

The spread of the virus intensified in Kazakhstan after a state of emergency declared on March 16 was lifted on May 11.

The Word Health Organization has designated Kazakhstan as a country experiencing a "rapid" spread of the coronavirus.

Kazakh health authorities said on July 2 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country reached 42,574, of which 14,059 people recovered and 188 died.

Central Asia

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators have called on Central Asian leaders to release activists being detained because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus in prison.

The call came in letters addressed to four Central Asian leaders, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev of Kazakhstan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoev of Uzbekistan, and signed by a dozen senators.

“Individuals should never be imprisoned for exercising their rights of freedom of assembly, association, and speech,” the senators wrote in the July 1 letter.

“We call for releasing these individuals on the merits of their cases, but today, we also urge you to act quickly on health and humanitarian grounds. While all nations and citizens have been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the risks to the detainee population are particularly acute given the enclosed living conditions,” they added.

Although, no separate letter was addressed to the Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, the senators in a joint statement called on him to release Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights activist sentenced in 2010 to life in prison on "unfounded charges of participating in mass disturbances, inciting ethnic hatred, and abetting the murder of a police officer."

UN Human Rights Committee experts found in April 2016 that Askarov “had been arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured and mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his trial defense."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
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