April 27, 2020 / 8:31 AM / a month ago

Kazakhstan announces easing of restrictions imposed over coronavirus

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a mural, dedicated to medical specialists involved in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Almaty, Kazakhstan April 24, 2020. The mural reads: "We bow our heads to physicians". REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan will start easing some restrictions imposed over the coronavirus though a state of emergency will continue until at least May 11, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Monday.

Businesses including banks, logistics firms and factories will be allowed to reopen in most parts of the Central Asian nation of 19 million on Tuesday, and flights will resume on Friday between its two main cities, Almaty and Nur-Sultan.

People will be allowed to go out for walks in the coming days though Tokayev extended the state of emergency declared in mid-March, saying Kazakhstan had not yet passed the peak stage of infection.

He said the state of emergency, which had been due to end on April 30, could finish on May 11 if there were no new mass outbreaks.

Tokayev also ordered the healthcare ministry to increase the number of daily coronavirus tests to 20,000-25,000. Kazakhstan, which has reported 2,835 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths form the respiratory disease that the coronavirus can cause, has so far carried out around 180,000 tests in about 40 days.

Information minister Dauren Abayev said on state television that flights would follow strict distancing rules after their resumption and passengers wishing to travel would have to present certificates proving they are free of the coronavirus.

Abayev said Kazakhstan would continue bringing home Kazakhs stranded abroad. It would repatriate dozens from the United States, Europe and the Middle East and more than 6,000 people from Russia, he said.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Toby Chopra, Kirsten Donovan and Timothy Heritage

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