ALMATY: Former president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has tested positive for coronavirus and is now in isolation.
The 79-year-old former and first president will continue to work from a distance at the moment. The strongman ruled the country for three decades before his ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev became president although he continues to have great influence.
“Unfortunately, the virus did not bypass our First President. I wish Nursultan Nazarbayev a speedy recovery. He is a strong man. His whole life is full of struggles, so I hope that he will easily overcome this challenge,” Tokayev tweeted on Thursday.
The country’s health minister Yelzhan Birtanov also tested positive with coronavirus and has been hospitalised. “Unfortunately, this is not an asymptomatic form, so I was hospitalised in an infectious diseases hospital,” Birtanov wrote in a Facebook post.
“Despite all the strict sanitary measures that I followed, there are always risks. This is especially true for those who work, cannot work remotely,” he added.
Birtanov encouraged citizens to distance themselves from each other and to consult a doctor if they have symptoms, stating that cases were rising in many regions of the country.
Kazakhstan has begun phasing out restrictions despite the rise in cases. The border to the country remains largely closed with large restrictions to foreigners.
The oil-rich country shares a large border with Russia where coronavirus cases continue to rise. The country of 18 million people has recorded more than 20,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 100 deaths.
Kazakhstan currently has more recorded coronavirus cases than its other Central Asian neighbours such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.