Kyrgyz Health Minister, Vice Premier Sacked Over COVID-19 Response

Firefighters wearing face masks spray disinfectant on streets around a market as a measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Bishkek on March 27, 2020. Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP.

Two senior members of Kyrgyzstan’s government responsible for handling the coronavirus outbreak were dismissed on Wednesday after President Sooronbay Jeenbekov criticised their efforts to fight the spread of the virus.

The dismissal of health minister Kosmosbek Cholponbayev and deputy prime minister Altynai Omurbekova was announced on the president’s official website.

Jeenbekov on Tuesday had criticised the two who helped lead the country’s task force against COVID-19, calling their work “unsatisfactory” and saying it had allowed the disease to spread.

Jeenbekov said the task force had been slow to identify the “circle of persons” who had come into contact with people who tested positive for coronavirus.

Kyrgyzstan has 111 registered coronavirus infections and no deaths, according to official figures.

The first infections in the Muslim-majority country were people who had travelled to Saudi Arabia for Islamic pilgrimages.

Impoverished Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic of six million bordering China, was the first country to receive emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The IMF said last week that the $121-million support package was issued “to meet (Kyrgyzstan’s) urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak.”

Kyrgyzstan’s economy is reliant on the output of a single major gold mine, while hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia have sent home remittances worth billions of dollars in recent years.


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