Kazakhstan opts for compulsory Covid-19 vaccination in workplaces

Nur-Sultan, Jun 23 (EFE).- Kazakhstan’s government said Wednesday that employees in firms of more than 20 people will face a requirement to either accept the Covid-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing.

Aizhan Esmagambetova, head of the Kazakh Health Ministry’s Committee of Sanitary and Epidemiological Control, announced the change in policy, which comes as Kazakhs display reluctance to get the shot even as the number of cases continues to rise.

“Employees of all collectives of more than 20 people will have to be vaccinated or undergo (regular) PCR tests,” she said.

Workers without a vaccination certificate will have to be tested weekly to prove that they are not infected. The cost of testing will be borne by employers and their staff.

“Vaccination is free of charge. We invite everyone to get vaccinated, the state covers all the costs. Citizens have the possibility to pay nothing, to receive the vaccine, to protect themselves and their families. Otherwise, you have to pay for PCRs,” Health Minister Aleksei Tsoi said.

The price of a PCR test from a private laboratory is about $16.

Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Yeraly Tugzhanov said that the new policy does not infringe on citizens’ constitutional rights and pointed to the danger of allowing coronavirus to spread.

“We cannot afford such a threat, taking into account what is happening in neighboring countries,” he said.

The largest country in Central Asia is seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases and 56 percent of new infections are with the more contagious and dangerous Delta variant, first detected in India.

Kazakhstan began mass vaccination in February with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. In April, the domestically manufactured QazVac vaccine was added to the immunization campaign, which also uses China’s CoronaVac and Hayat-Vax, a version of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine produced in the United Arab Emirates.

More than 2.85 million of Kazakhstan’s 18 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 1.75 million have been fully vaccinated.

The government has set a goal of having 10 million people fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.

Authorities in the former Soviet republic reported 1,248 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 943 the previous day, bringing the total number of infections to 411,771. EFE kk-aj/cae/lap/dr

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