Kazakhstan ends state of emergency; provinces to oversee lifting of lockdown

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan allowed a coronavirus state of emergency to lapse on Monday, authorising cities and provinces to begin lifting lockdown measures depending on their success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Provinces and cities that record growth in COVID-19 cases lower than 7% per day for seven consecutive days will be permitted to reopen businesses such as large retailers, office buildings, outdoor markets, beauty salons and gyms, according to a decree by Kazakhstan’s chief sanitary doctor.

Kazakhstan has confirmed 5,126 COVID-19 cases with 31 deaths. It has not published province-by-province growth rates.

The government dropped a requirement that air passengers present medical certificates before flights and be seated with empty seats between them. Domestic flights resumed from May 4.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also announced plans on Monday for an overhaul of tax policy to deal with the economic aftermath of the pandemic. Kazakhstan would abandon a 10% flat tax rate and switch to a progressive personal income tax. He did not specify the planned new tax rates but said it would mean a cut for lower earners and a hike for the wealthy.

Another aim of the tax reform would be to shrink the size of the untaxed grey economy, he said. One in four Kazakhs has received a $100-per-month payout offered by the state to those who have lost their source of income due to the lockdown. Some 40% of them had no previous employment record, having worked informally and paid no taxes.

“Our main goal is to lead the largest and most opaque lower-end pay segment out of the shadow (economy),” Tokayev said.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Graff