July 10, 2020 / 8:02 AM / a month ago

Kazakh president threatens to sack cabinet if COVID-19 efforts fail

FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev speaks during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan February 1, 2020. Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS/File photo

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday he may sack his cabinet if its second, two-week lockdown fails to curb the coronavirus outbreak in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

“It would raise questions about the government’s ability to work in its current composition” if there is no improvement by the end of the lockdown, Tokayev’s office quoted him as saying.

Kazakhstan, which imposed a new lockdown on July 5, has confirmed almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962 before declining to 1,726 on Friday.

Tokayev also ordered the cabinet to resuscitate the economy, which shrank 1.8% year-on-year in January-June as the services sector was hit by the first lockdown in March-May and the key oil and gas sector suffered from a crude price drop.

Tokayev said the government would allocate an additional 150 billion tenge ($363 million) towards combating the COVID-19 outbreak and urged the central bank to lower its inflation target to 8.0-8.5% from 9.0-11.0% this year. ($1 = 413.1200 tenge)

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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