China has warned its citizens living in Kazakhstan of a local "unknown pneumonia" which, it said, has a "much higher" fatality rate than the COVID-19 disease, prompting the Central Asian country to dismiss it as "fake news."
The "unknown pneumonia in Kazakhstan caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year, including 628 people in June alone", the Chinese embassy in the central Asian country said in a statement on its WeChat platform on Thursday, adding that the fatalities also included Chinese citizens.
However, Kazakhstan has dismissed as "fake news" the warning put out by the Chinese embassy.
“The fatality rate of the disease is much higher than COVID-19," state-run Global Times quoted the embassy's statement on Friday.
Many organisations including Kazakhstan's health department are studying the "virus of this pneumonia", the embassy said.
There has not been any indication whether this disease is related to the COVID-19.
Some Chinese experts said that measures should be taken to prevent the pneumonia from spreading into China.
Reacting to this, Kazakhstan's health ministry termed the Chinese embassy statement as "fake news."
"The information published by some Chinese media regarding a new kind of pneumonia in Kazakhstan is incorrect," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted the ministry as saying.
It said its tallies of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, which also included cases of unclear causes, were inline with World Health Organisation guidelines. "The information published by some Chinese media regarding a new kind of pneumonia in Kazakhstan is incorrect," the ministry said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that, “We would like to get more information. China hopes to work with Kazakhstan to fight the epidemic and safeguard the public health," he said.
Kazakhstan borders China's northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The embassy is reminding the Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan to raise their awareness of measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
It quoted local media as saying that since mid-June, almost 500 people have been infected with the pneumonia in three regions of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan's healthcare minister on Wednesday said that the number of patients sickened by the pneumonia is two to three times more than those who have been infected with the COVID-19, the report quoted Kazakh media as saying.
The minister said that it has planned to publish accurate tallies of confirmed cases as early as next week, noting that while it is not necessary to publish the number, the public needs to know the true situation, Kazakh international news agency Kazinform reported.
Kazakhstan has reported 51,059 cases of COVID-19, including 264 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus resource centre.
The US and many countries have accused China of hiding the COVID-19 data from the world.
However, China has denied covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused the US of attempting to divert public attention from the pandemic that has hit America, which is the worst-hit nation.