Returning to Kazakhstan in the Middle of the Global Pandemic: Reflecting on My Experience

It is so undeniably difficult to argue against the statement that the concept of change became one of the key concepts depicting the events of the recent two years. People are changing, cities are changing, the world is changing. Nevertheless, due to many factors, this change is experienced differently by different people. It won’t be wrong to conclude that the predominant reason for that is the place where we appeared to be during the course of the global pandemic. I wouldn’t make such statements, if I wasn’t experiencing it by myself, as getting back home to Kazakhstan after my first year of studies in London I have realized the visible difference of how various countries and governments are managing the pandemic.

The very first thing I noticed was right after I had landed in Kazakhstan. Apparently, you cannot enter any building, café/restaurant or public place, without having to download a local app “Ashyq”, that allows you to scan the QR-code at the entrance and your location will be saved. In order to download this app to your mobile device, you have to register at the governmental website, where your mobile number, ID, and address are saved to the system to further notify you whether you have to self-isolate in case there was someone with the virus close to you.

Despite the control via this app, many public places are equipped with thermometers, so you will not be able to enter a building having a fever, which could possibly be a symptom of COVID-19.  However, now where it is already known that there are many other symptoms, despite the increased body temperature, the majority of these thermometers are not in use.

Another thing that grabbed my attention was the progress with vaccination programme. In London, I already got used to the structure of vaccination, that was introduced there, with different chronological phases that depend on the degree of people’s vulnerability for the virus, and centers of vaccinations, placed in various locations within the city. In Nur-Sultan -the capital city of Kazakhstan, where I am from- the situation is a bit different, since now anyone (not depending on the age) who wishes to get a vaccine, can go to the nearest vaccination center and get vaccinated. What surprised me is the variety of vaccination centers and huge propaganda of vaccines – vaccination points are literally everywhere, starting from local hospitals, to big shopping malls, and many stores and cafes are even offering huge discounts if you show your vaccination passport.

There are always differences in the way countries behave to certain things, but why do these differences occur? Of course, this is a matter of a list of factors, including economic, political and the cultural nature of a country, health care capacity of a country or the severity of the pandemic in that region. It also depends on citizens’ attitude toward the concept of a society, responsibility and duties, that is why some governments might introduce tighter control over people, while others choose to prioritize the promotion of self-isolation hoping for citizens’ solidarity. Nevertheless, in every country there are people who follow all the safety measures, but also those who neglect the rules and I believe it is mostly a matter of their personal attitude towards the situation, rather than the conditions they were surrounded with. The situation with the safety measures and the way the government is managing the pandemic definitely differs in different countries, however, it is not a factor that will allow you to make a conclusion whether one is managing it more successfully.

Alexandra Bukhareva, Year 1, BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations.

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