The new Coronavirus has hit a majority of the countries in the world and it has affected political, economic and social spheres. Just as well, a widespread strategy of total lockdown has lead to serious changes in people’s everyday life. However, in spite of the restrictive measures taken by most of the international community in the face of the virus, some countries have adopted their own approach to the pandemic.
For instance, in Belarus the Government decided not to introduce a complete lockdown, in keeping with an approach that has aimed to deny the severeness of the situation. Moreover, the Belarusian government used the tools of propaganda to represent the growing danger of COVID-19 as an attempt of the Western countries to damage Belarusian society. Officials claim that, acting through the political opposition, the West is trying to spread the virus in Belarus.
The neighbouring countries’ Governments have reacted with concern to the Coronavirus response of the Belarusian establishment. Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda on Wednesday 1st April expressed his concern about the inadequate reaction to the spread of COVID-19 in Belarus, claiming in addition that the Belarusian government is hiding the real number of the infected people and deaths. In fact, the reported numbers of those infected and those who have died by Belarusian government are very low; so, as Nauseda stated: “it’s quite possible that the true figures are much worse as we know about certain outbreaks in the Belarusian territory and registered deaths”.
By 31st May, data showed that there were 42556 total registered cases of COVID 19 in Belarus. According to the official figures, the virus has led to the deaths of at least 235 people in the country. However, some experts maintain that many coronavirus-related fatalities are registered as cases of pneumonia.
The World Health Organization denounced a “lack of adequate social distancing measures” by the Belarusian Government and urged it to introduce the necessary measures that countries all around the world have already put in place. The Government, however, hasn’t changed its approach in any significant way.
In fact, the measures adopted in Belarus remain very mild: so far the Government has advised self-isolation for those who have tested positive or who have returned from a foreign country and said people should maintain a 1.5 meter distance. Indeed, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has declared several times that the consequences of the lockdown would be more disastrous for the country than the virus itself. He has publicly downplayed the Coronavirus pandemic several times, using the word “psychosis” to describe the global response to the pandemic. Moreover, Lukashenko made several questionable comments on the virus: for instance, he has insisted that vodka and sauna may help to avoid getting infected.
All the cafes and restaurants in the country remain open, as well as the state-run institutions. Schools, which had been closed for three weeks around Easter, have now reopened. However, parents have the option to keep their children at home. Fearing the outbreak of the virus, some belarusian citizens opt for self-isolation, since the Government remains indifferent to the danger and personal protective equipment remains scarce. However, not everyone has this option. A large part of the population has to physically go to work, otherwise they will be fired.
The main public events haven’t been cancelled, either. Belarus was one of the few countries that did not stop its national football championship. Moreover, the annual Victory Day parade on May 9th, which was held in Minsk, was attended by tens on thousands of people, few of them wearing protective masks. The attendees included several elderly citizens, who fall in one of the groups that runs the highest risk of being affected by the Coronavirus.
The reactions and measures taken by the Belarusian authorities seem to have provoked concern in Russia, as well: the Russian Government expressed worry about the situation in the neighbouring country, claiming that it could lead to a serious outbreak of the infection. In turn, Belarus revoked the accreditation to the journalist Aleksei Kruchinin and his cameraman Sergei Panasyuk, part of Russia’s Channel One crew, because of their televised report on rising Coronavirus deaths in the country. In fact, they have been accused of spreading fake news.
The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically affected the world. However, some countries, such as Belarus, tend to ignore the danger of the virus and to avoid the introduction of restrictive measures, opting instead for a skeptical approach that heavily relies on propaganda and misinformation. As the Belarusian regime is trying to avoid the hot topic of the pandemic, the country prepares for the next presidential elections, which are set for August.
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