TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan will impose a second lockdown between July 10 and Aug. 1 to curb a new surge in cases of the novel coronavirus since the easing of its first set of restrictions in late May and early June.
The Central Asian nation’s government said on Wednesday it will limit the movement of vehicles and close non-food shopping malls, markets, parks, cafes, restaurants and sports and entertainment venues.
Uzbekistan saw a surge in fresh COVID-19 cases in June after lifting many of the restrictions introduced earlier. It has confirmed almost 11,000 cases with 40 deaths; more than a half of the latter occurred within the last two weeks.
Neighbouring Kazakhstan has also imposed a second lockdown from July 5, citing a jump in cases.
The fresh restrictions in both countries are, however, less strict than those maintained between March and May when they completely sealed all provinces and shut down all non-essential businesses.
As in its previous lockdown however, Uzbekistan will ban all public gatherings of more than three people. Currently, regulations limit the number of guests at events such as weddings to 30, but healthcare minister Alisher Shodmonov told state television on Wednesday some people have found loopholes.
Seventy-nine people tested positive after one wedding, he said, which was held in three sittings to formally comply with the rules.
Uzbekistan has divided its territory into green, yellow and red zones depending on the rate of COVID-19 cases in those areas. Capital city Tashkent is mostly yellow, with some red neighbourhoods which have been cordoned off.
Late last month, Uzbekistan imposed a curfew in red and yellow zones and started closing large shopping venues for weekends.
At the same time, authorities have said more than half of the confirmed cases were people repatriated from abroad. Millions of Uzbeks work in countries such as Russia to provide for their families at home; tens of thousands have returned on state-organised flights since the pandemic began.
Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams and Alexandra Hudson