The Nazarbayev University (NU) community has been actively involved in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 since the very beginning of the virus’ entrance into the country. NU contributes to fighting the pandemic by means of its professors’ expertise, campus infrastructure, and by providing material, technical and management support.
The top priority for NU is the health, safety, and well-being of its community, on and off-campus. To date, there are more than 1,000 people living on campus. Because many students, faculty, staff and their families live on campus the University administration put the full force of its effort into limiting the spread of the virus on the university campus. These circumstances, of course, do not make it possible to reallocate and designate the living blocks of the university as in-patient treatment facilities for patients with coronavirus.
The whole NU Community is committed to joining the fight against the spread of the disease in Kazakhstan. Below is a summary of the social and research initiatives that the NU Community is implementing to fight the pandemic.
NU COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative
NU COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative is a project initiated and supported by Nazarbayev University and a number of its faculty and staff who were eager to help by various means to fight the pandemic in order to express solidarity with the people of Kazakhstan.
NU COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative is raising its own funds to support the frontline healthcare workers and their families. The collected funds are allocated to provide necessary aid to medical centers in different regions of the country. To date, 146,000 medical masks, 150 plastic face shields, 5 pneumatic sprays, 100 non-contact thermometers, 1000 FFP2 respirators, 1,600 protective suits have been purchased for the hospitals in the cities of Nur-Sultan, Kyzylorda, Shymkent, Turkestan, and Taraz.
In addition to this initiative, NU students and graduates, despite the risks in a pandemic, are actively helping healthcare workers as volunteers. They provide personal protective equipment and food. With the contributions by many graduates of Nazarbayev University and the Social Development Fund, hundreds of families from socially vulnerable groups have received support in Nur-Sultan and Almaty.
Treatment of children with cancer
During the pandemic period, the National Research Center for Maternal and Child Care of “University Medical Center” Corporate Fund has reorganized the work process under new conditions of the coronavirus infection in order to provide secure stays for children with malignant neoplasms, maximizing sanitary and epidemiological precautions. Ten provisional beds were organized in an isolated area for the children with cancer with a positive PCR test for COVID – 19. Since the beginning of the pandemic in Kazakhstan, namely since March 2020, the center has provided treatment to more than 600 children with cancer.
Information support on coronavirus infection for healthcare workers In light of the widespread challenges for local doctors in keeping up-to-date and verifying information about the latest advances in COVID-19 treatment from around the world, graduates of NU, in cooperation with practicing doctors, Ph.D. students, students of Kazakhstani and international universities, and translators (90 people in total) have launched a telegram channel https://t.me/medsupportkz, where they provide informational support to doctors. The project is primarily aimed at informing medical workers that treat the patients with COVID-19 about current scientific publications, new data, scientific articles, and reviews. The launch of the project was initiated due to a significant increase of patients with the sequela requiring emergency care due to their self-treatment based on fake protocols and “recommendations”. There are more than 5000 subscribers to the channel now, almost half of them are the practicing doctors who now have an opportunity to get acquainted with the translations of the latest studies and protocols for treating the virus in different countries and other important information posted on the channel.
The technicians of the NU Machine shop have arranged the 3D printing of protective face shields made of plastic that cover the face and thereby protect the mucous membrane of the eye, respiratory tract, and the face itself from dust and mechanical particles and drops of biological and chemical substances splashes. A few batches of the face shields produced at NU have already been donated to several hospitals of the country.
Initiatives of the Nazarbayev University Social Development Fund (hereinafter – the Fund)
During the state of emergency, the Fund has been providing financial support to student volunteers of the Medical University Astana, who were involved in the fight against coronavirus infection. In partnership with the National Volunteer Network, the Fund has provided computers to 100 children of nurses and paramedics, including those from the multi-child families in the cities of Almaty, Aktobe and Kyzylorda regions, Pavlodar, Kokshetau, Shymkent, and Temirtau.
Scientific projects and Research
Participation in the “Stop Coronavirus” contest
According to the results of the Stop-Coronavirus online contest held by “Science Foundation” JSC, two NU projects have received the highest scores of the jury: “Production of respiratory masks using Kazakhstan diatomite” and “Disinfectant composition with antimicrobial and antiviral effects based on the natural mineral diatomite” led by Prof. Zinetula Insepov. The research proposals of these projects were sent to the Government. These projects contribute to combating the pandemic, as well as to developing the domestic goods market and the national diatomite industry.
DNA analysis of the patients cured of COVID-19
Scientists at National Laboratory Astana of Nazarbayev University plan to study the DNA of patients with coronavirus infection. All works with the source material will be carried out in laboratories that have a permit to work with infected material. In addition, an epidemiological study is planned in all regions of Kazakhstan to assess the actual spread of major chronic diseases and the willingness of primary health care organizations to work in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, the prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 will also be determined to investigate the question of whether the formation of collective immunity to this infection is possible.
The main goal of the Hub is to support professors in creating high-quality multimedia educational content. NU faculty create content that can be useful to a wide audience. The professors share their knowledge not only with NU students but also record online courses and publish videos on their YouTube channels, they also regularly run free live webinars for everyone.
Work in progress
Abiding the strict quarantine measures and security requirements, scientists at Nazarbayev University continue to work hard to find effective solutions to fight the virus. Meanwhile, the leadership NU continues to make contingency plans for a number of possible scenarios, adjusting to the situation as it changes while adhering to the university’s core principles and values. Leadership is also taking decisive measures to prevent the spread of the virus and provide conditions for effective academic and research activities.
You are kindly invited to follow the updates on the additional measures implemented by Nazarbayev University to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Take care of yourself and your families!