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Photoreport: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during the coronavirus pandemic

How Kazakhstanis and Kyrgyzstanis live in a state of emergency due to the spread of coronavirus infection.


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Talgar Road roadblock in Almaty

Since March 19, the major cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan, where the cases were detected, have been closed for quarantine. At the entrance to them, checkpoints are set up and guarded by national guard officers. A “green” corridor has been opened for food cargo and medicines.

Since March 15, a state of emergency has been declared throughout Kazakhstan due to the spread of coronavirus infection. It includes the strengthening of public order, the prohibition of events, the closure of commercial and entertainment establishments and the prohibition of entry and exit to the country.

Queue at a supermarket in Nur-Sultan. Photo taken from Axulu Sangali’s Facebook page

In supermarkets, people started buying food in advance. However, the authorities assured that there would be no disruption in the food supply.

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In Almaty itself, all shopping and entertainment institutions, parks, restaurants, beauty salons, sports complexes, as well as night establishments are closed. Only grocery stores and pharmacies are open.

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Educational institutions are also closed. All schoolchildren have been sent on holiday and students have been transferred to distance learning.

Almaty is the economic capital of Kazakhstan and is also a place of work for people from nearby settlements. However, once quarantine and roadblocks are erected, they cannot enter the city.

Many were left unemployed or on leave, and large supermarkets, confectionery factories began to report hiring in lieu of expatriate workers.

Some companies have moved their employees to remote working.

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Since the quarantine was introduced, people are less likely to go to the streets, less likely to use public transport. Passenger traffic in Almaty, according to the transporters has dropped by 70%.

However, the city is not completely deserted. Still, you can see two or three people walking in the streets, some wearing masks and gloves. Some even go on protests.

In Kyrgyzstan, a state of emergency was introduced on March 22, when 14 coronavirus cases were reported.

Since March 25, a state of emergency has been declared in the cities of Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad as well as in the Nookat and Kara-Suu districts of Osh oblast and in the Suzak district of Jalal-Abad oblast where those infected have been identified.

Curfews, special exit and entry regimes, close monitoring of residents’ compliance with house quarantine and prohibition of mass events are introduced.

Universities, schools and kindergartens have been quarantined. Some students have been sent on vacation; others have been transferred to distance learning.

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On the eve of the introduction of state of emergency regime, the driver of one of the shuttle taxis said that he had been earning so little during this week only for gasoline and bread. There are three times fewer passengers, and citizens prefer to take buses and trolleybuses.

From March 22, public transport in Bishkek has been restricted. Shuttle taxis are completely stopped, trolleybuses and buses were partially operating. But from March 25, all public transport and taxi services are completely stopped.

A similar situation prevails in the city of Osh in the south of Kyrgyzstan. There is a complete cessation of public transport, only mini-buses for medical personnel operate there. Taxis are also temporarily restricted, and restrictions are imposed on the entry of citizens from other areas.

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The center of the capital is empty, there are no people walking in the main square. Bishkek residents who are going on business do not stay on the square in the recreation area.

Nikolai says he only goes outside to feed the pigeons. He says he only managed to buy three masks before they ran out in pharmacies.

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There are no masks in hospitals. In one of the metropolitan clinics, which serves several neighborhoods, there are usually long waiting lists for doctors. Right now it’s just patients with emergency medical needs.

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However, people still go for walks in park areas and on the outskirts of Bishkek.

Nurbek and Aliia (names changed) have a date today, taking into account the WHO’s advice. To not hold hands, to be at distance within a meter from each other.


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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