The Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday issued a warning that an "unknown pneumonia" more lethal than the coronavirus is sweeping through the former Soviet republic, according to reports. However, the Kazakhstan's health ministry has rubbished the reports as "fake news."

"The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus," the embassy said in a statement to Chinese citizens in the country, as reported by the South China Morning Post. "The country's health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus."

More than 1,700 Fatalities in 6 Months

Double lung transplant
Northwestern Medicine

According to the statement, the mysterious disease has already claimed more than 1,700 deaths in the first six months of the year, including 628 people in June alone and that its fatality rate is significantly higher than COVID-19.

"Kazakhstani Health Department and other agencies are conducting comparative research and have not defined the nature of the pneumonia virus," the embassy noted and warned its citizens to isolate themselves and avoid going outside unless necessary. It also encouraged them to take preventative measures like practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, disinfecting spaces, and washing hands frequently.

The embassy claimed that new reported cases of the unidentified disease have been increasing substantially since mid-June across the country, before adding that in some regions health officials are reporting in excess of hundred cases daily.

The cases have so far been reported in the regions of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent, which together have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients, said the embassy statement, citing local media.

Kazakhstan Says Embassy Warning is 'Incorrect'

On Friday, Kazakhstan dismissed the warning by the Chinese embassy to its citizens as incorrect. The country's healthcare ministry branded Chinese media reports based on the embassy statement as "fake news."

"The information published by some Chinese media regarding a new kind of pneumonia in Kazakhstan is incorrect," the ministry said, before adding that its reporting of cases of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, including cases of unclear causes, were in accordance with guidelines laid out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).