MINSK DISTRICT, 27 March (BelTA) – Belarus is taking all the necessary measures to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 infection, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he visited Belgips Plant on 27 March, BelTA has learned.
The head of state underlined that each agency in the country, from healthcare service to law enforcement – is doing their work. They are tracking down suspected cases and are trying to get ahead of the epidemic. At the same, Aleksandr Lukashenko warned against psychosis and panic around the virus.
“We are on it. But without much ado,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about the impact of coronavirus containment measures around the world on the economy. The situation is having a toll on Belarus. He cited a recent statement by U.S. President Donald Trump who tweeted that they cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.
All in all, the head of state gave his take on various aspects of the problem, starting from calls to implement a quarantine and close businesses, up to food security and food stocks in retail outlets.
Psychosis and economic impact
“This psychosis has crippled national economies almost everywhere in the world. Even the Russian Federation that is similar to us has started closing businesses,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that it was visionless for the United States to announce an emergency some time ago. “However Trump, a former businessman, soon figured out what to do; I really like his recent statements. He said that unemployment can claim more lives than coronavirus itself unless they reopen businesses and get Americans back to work. Now you have understood why I did not authorize closures of businesses. Although there were many people urging me to close borders, enterprises and begin a nationwide quarantine. Back then I made a principled decision: we will implement a quarantine only when it is really needed,” the Belarusian leader said.
The head of state noted that sooner or later the problem will be tackled, the psychosis will be gone and the world will focus on the economy, businesses and employment.
“We have enough of imported coronavirus cases and economic issues. More of them will come from abroad. Why would we do things that will make the situation even worse?” the president asked.
In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that company executives should bear responsibility for the work of the staff. “We need to go through it with dignity, because we do not have a pipe and we do not print dollars. America can print two trillion dollars to stimulate its economy. We cannot afford it. We do not have a money-printing machine or a pipe. And we are not as rich as Germany,” he said.
“We need to rely on our own selves if we want to be sovereign and independent. We will survive, there is no doubt about it. The manufacturing industry should no way wind down. I am telling you again: in a month or two we will see what it means when the world's biggest economies are put on hold,” the Belarusian leader said.
Coronavirus containment measures
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus experiences a rise in viral infections every spring. This year the situation was aggravated by the novel coronavirus.
Taking into consideration that coronavirus cases are mostly imported, the country took the necessary measures to track down suspected cases and their contacts. “All arrivals were registered at the points of entry. As soon as someone tested positive for coronavirus, we immediately started tracking down their contacts with the help of the police, KGB and surveillance cameras,” the head of state said.
He emphasized that the entire healthcare system, law enforcement and special services are doing their job thus maintaining security in the country.
“When we realized that this coronavirus was imported, we had to act. I took a decision (it was formalized by the government yesterday) not to close borders. Why would we do it? Ukraine shut down its borders, so did Poland and the Baltic states, and then our brotherly Russians followed suit. Okay, but life is going on, you cannot put it on hold,” the Belarusian leader said.
In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus is doing whatever it should to secure smooth international trucking. The country has determined major thoroughfares, transit corridors, and service areas. “Interstate drivers have not given us a single reason to worry. We have not closed anything, but we keep things under control at the entry and exit points. If we learn about an issue, we immediately address it,” he said.
Ban on extraordinary safety measures in the president's residence
“I should tell you that I am not hiding anywhere. I absolutely banned any excessive measures no matter who visits me. Otherwise people will get an impression that I shield myself with reinforced concrete, not even gypsum walls while telling people to do the opposite. Nothing of this kind. The spokesperson has said about it recently. That was of great interest to our opposition. I have an absolutely normal life,” the president said.
Classroom learning and school holidays
Aleksandr Lukashenko also spoke about classroom learning and commented on the fact that some parents keep their children at home and do not let them attend classes. “My own kid goes to school. Maybe, I have an opportunity to isolate my child, but I am not doing it,” the head of state noted.
He went on saying that according to his son, in some classes up to half of students miss school. “Parents do not let them do it. It is up to them, it is their child, we have nothing against,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He also called on people to be considerate of the elderly. Many might send their kids to their grandparents during the forthcoming holidays. “Elderly people are most at risk,” the president said. He noted that he meant not only coronavirus, but also other infections that are common during this time of the year.
Help for the elderly
“Elderly people have responded to our call to reduce social activity as much as possible. We have mobilized everyone to make sure that medicines and foodstuffs are delivered to the elderly people living alone. Most importantly, the entire power vertical got an instruction to stay within an easy reach for the elderly. An elderly person should not have to look for some special phone number, he should be able to get in touch with local officials by calling a village council, a district executive committee or a municipal administration,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke against setting up or making up any ad hoc teams or things like that. After all, this is what local authorities do every day. They have enough resources and leverages to do their work.
The president praised Belarusian doctors and noted that their work has been slightly repurposed recently. “I strongly banned setting up any ad hoc teams. We have such a unit at the Healthcare Ministry. Follow them. The Belarus President Administration should be responsible for keeping the public informed. We have not created anything new, we just took advantage of what we already had. For the past ten days I have been monitoring the work of the Healthcare Ministry and doctors,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He emphasized that decisions to close businesses or not should be made by the government, while a doctors' task is to treat people in any situation. “A doctor should treat, a journalist should inform… Everyone should do their job,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that he compared the death rate of January-February 2020 with the death rates of the same periods of the previous years and saw a considerable drop in deaths attributed to pneumonia and other diseases. The head of state urged people not to neglect other diseases that are the leading cause of death in Belarus – cardiovascular diseases and cancer. “This is the main thing. We are overwhelmed by coronavirus. We repurposed some hospital beds and canceled routine examinations,” the head of state said.
“We have enough of foodstuffs, do not worry. When the demand soared, I said: there is no reason to worry. We have our own meat and dairy products. We do not have to export them, to try to get access to Russia's market; China is also on lockdown now. This food should be in stores, let people buy it,” the president said.
Commenting on panic buying of buckwheat, Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that buckwheat stocks will last for half a year. “There are no big problems. If we run out of buckwheat, we will eat millet porridge instead… Keep in mind that we have potatoes, too. We will not die of starvation,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.
Food for thought
The president promised that after the coronavirus is tackled and the psychosis is over, he will reveal many interesting things about it. For now, he suggested thinking about a number of things. One of them is the origins of the virus – did the virus emerge spontaneously or was it man-made, who could benefit from it, who tried to take advantage of this situation in order to further their interests. “They are playing with fire. We will discuss it later,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He noted that some people, including in Belarus, are trying to get a lot of attention in the internet speculating on the coronavirus topic. “We started identifying these people and asking them questions. We do not need any more psychosis. They want to ratchet up tensions… The so-called opposition is trying to turn this situation against the authorities. I am saying nothing. Time will tell,” the head of state said.
The president believes that in today's world it is not always possible to shut down borders and go into full lockdown. A testimony to that was the situation at the Belarus-Russia border. Many found workarounds, thus the bans imposed by Russia did not work anymore. “Order should be in place. However, we should keep in mind that it is impossible to self-isolate in this globalized world,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.