The suspension of a visa waiver for Chinese and Indian nationals may be extended by Kazakhstan until November 1 as part of the country's measures to tackle the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The proposed continuation of the temporary suspension was mentioned in a draft decree issued by the country’s government on Thursday. The proposal will be open to public discussion until April 29 after which the government will make a final decision.
An initiative to introduce a 72-hour visa waiver for Chinese and Indian nationals was first launched in 2018 and covered airports located in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan's capital, and Almaty, which is the country’s largest city. In early 2020, Shymkent, Aktau, Karaganda and Taraz were added to the list of cities that allowed Chinese and Indian passengers to transit visa-free before traveling onward to their final destinations. Visitors were registered by Kazakhstan’s border service at checkpoints located at the border.
The regulation was set to last through 2020 with the aim of increasing the number of transit visitors to Kazakhstan.
The government earlier ordered to halt the same regulation until July 1 to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The move came after the number of confirmed cases in Kazakhstan increased to 80 which led the government to implement emergency measures.
Since February, Nur-Sultan has taken several measures to prevent the spread of the disease to the Central Asian country.
On March 16, the country declared a state of emergency, imposing national quarantine and ordering the closure of all state borders until April 15. A 1,782 km-long border with China, where the virus outbreak emerged late last year, has been closed since January 29. In addition, Kazakhstan air carrier Air Astana canceled all of its international flights starting from March 29.
On Thursday, the government ordered to expand the state of emergency until May 1.
‘‘We have not yet passed the coronavirus outbreak peak,’’ Russia-based news agency Eurasia Daily quoted Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as saying.
‘‘I see, this is an unpopular decision, because people want to take to the streets, get back to the normal, familiar routine of life. But there is no other way out, apart from quarantine and self-isolation,’’ he added.
More than 1,400 people in Kazakhstan are confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus, while 17 deaths have been recorded in the country, according to the latest figures reported by media on Friday.