People around the world are struggling to fight coronavirus. Belarus is on a list including few countries that do not require quarantine. Life stays almost the same as it was before, despite a large number of cases. What has happened in Belarus concerning coronavirus in the last few months?
Today, Belarus has more than 40,000 cases. The first coronavirus case was diagnosed on February 27. Since then, the number of cases has been growing, but President Alexander Lukashenko wants to neither close the borders nor declare a state of emergency: “Coronavirus is only psychosis and I will never deny this statement because I have already experienced many psychoses, and we know what this led to.” Later, on April 26, according to the Telegram channel “Pula Pervoy”, Lukashenko made a statement during a working trip to the Narovlyansky district, saying that there is no need to have quarantine and close the borders, although he was not denying that people are sick.
“I made a decision to act in accordance with the situation. If it is necessary to isolate – we will isolate. If it is necessary to have quarantine – we will have it. But is it what our people really want?”
Lukashenko’s advice on how to better protect yourself from coronavirus is sports, a steam room, and working on a tractor. These options became memes, as well as what he said on hockey on the air of ONT: “There are no viruses here, you did not notice them flying around? And I don’t see them either, this is a refrigerator, this is the best antivirus tool.”
Lukashenko called on people to trust Belarusian TV. Lukashenko claims that Belarusian mass media has never lied and people choose who can be trusted for themselves. “WHO thinks the Belarusian health care methods are sufficient and one of the organization’s recommendations is to fight the virus precisely, which is what we are doing. Isolation can have the opposite effect,” said STV channel on April 5. That is why Lukashenko encourages people to believe Belarusian TV, because “everything is fine and under control”. He also stated that critics are trying to convict him for the method of combating the spread of COVID-19. “Now this coronavirus has become politics. Everyone is looking to ‘bite’ Lukashenko. So do not be surprised.”
The Belarusian leader opposed quarantine in schools: “If parents are so scared then don’t send the children to school.” In his opinion, if he announces the holidays in schools, this will only aggravate the situation, since children who can have coronavirus will go to their grandparents that are at risk. Also, Lukashenko is convinced that there is no need to close the borders but no one should weaken control over them. Based on the statements of official representatives, it can be concluded that the biggest concerns they have are the economic consequences of quarantine if it is announced. Belarus remains the only country in the region where strict quarantine measures do not apply. Schools and kindergartens are open and institutions continue working. Discussing the possible closure of enterprises under quarantine, Lukashenko referred to the words of the American President Donald Trump. “I really liked what Trump has said that if we do not start working immediately, more people will die from unemployment and hunger than from coronavirus,” Lukashenko stated.
Although there is no official quarantine in Belarus, many institutions and enterprises went into self-isolation. The Belarusian opposition and civil society leaders urge people not to attend educational institutions and public events, as well as to minimize social contacts. Some Belarusian doctors that have joined their colleagues’ global flash mob #StayHome. In turn, the Belarusian Union of Journalists indicated that the Ministry of Health does not update daily data on the number of infected people, and prevents journalists from receiving timely information. Physicians in Belarus were previously forbidden to communicate directly with journalists, so this can only be done with the permission of the Ministry of Health. Many people who are confident in the symptoms of the virus and want to be tested cannot do this, as the doctors usually deny them, without explaining what the reason is. Lukashenko claimed that Belarus is the second in the world in the number of tests for coronavirus, 22.5 thousand per 1 million of the population. Although, according to the Worldometer, a reference site that provides real-time counters and statistics on various topics, including coronavirus, Belarus is on 28 place on the list.
Radio Free Europe, relying on the project “List of memory”, estimated that one in ten people who died from COVID-19 in Belarus was a doctor. This is 15 times more than in Italy and 30 times more than in the United States. Radio Free Europe clarifies that a positive coronavirus test was not indicated for the cause of death. An anonymous source said that all hospitals are crammed and the people who are brought by ambulance with coronavirus are recorded as those who have pneumonia. People who were taken to the hospital by ambulance said that it clearly seemed that they were almost in a shortage of masks, disinfectants, and other necessary means.
This year’s Victory Day was celebrated, as usual, on May 9. A parade was held in Minsk on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Spectators did not keep a safe distance and only a few wore masks. There was also a gala concert and a planned firework in the evening. Others were outraged that the president did not cancel or postpone the parade. Lukashenko stated that no one was forced to go to the parade, and he would be glad to see people who had already had the coronavirus. However, after these words, it turned out that the students were asked to visit the parade and in return, they would receive “bonuses”, such as good exam grades.
Lukashenko again explained that it is difficult to defeat “coronavirus psychosis” in citizens’ minds:
“Not a disease, not this virus, that we drove people into the head and those unscrupulous politicians, political scientists and others. Real hysteria, real psychosis. People just became afraid.”
The number of cases is growing to almost a thousand per day. The media hides a large amount of information, which leads people to panic. Belarus is now the only country in Europe in which, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the national football championship continues. To find out the number of people infected in the country, the media had to add up the number of people who recovered, were monitored, and died. The situation had changed for the better at the time of the visit of the WHO mission but after its completion, the data again became incomplete. What will be next? What else will the state hide from the people and how can they continue believing them?