China embassy warns of deadly 'unknown pneumonia'

China's embassy in Kazakhstan has warned its citizens to take precautions against an outbreak of pneumonia in the country that it says is more lethal than COVID-19.

It said in a statement on its official WeChat account late today that there had been a "significant increase" in cases in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June.

Pneumonia in Kazakhstan had killed 1772 people in the first half of the year, with 628 deaths in June alone, including Chinese citizens, the embassy said.

"The mortality rate of the disease is much higher than that of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus," it said.

It remains unclear whether it is caused by a virus related to coronavirus or by a different strain. The embassy said Kazakhstan's health ministry and other health institutions were now carrying out a "comparative study", but no conclusions had yet been made.

According to a Tuesday report by Kazinform, the state news agency of Kazakhstan, the number of pneumonia cases "increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019".

The Global Times, a tabloid run by China's People's Daily, said the Kazakhstan foreign ministry "didn't respond to questions about the Chinese embassy's warning".

Kazakhstan has recorded more than 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose to a daily record of 1962 on Thursday, Kazinform reported.

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