WHO recommends Belarus take more severe measures to prevent COVID-19 spread

Belarus needs to introduce community-wide steps to increase physical distancing, the WHO experts conclude at the end of its assessment of the country’s response to the pandemic.

The WHO expert team were on their mission to Belarus on April 7-11. They visited health-care facilities, public health centres, laboratories and emergency centres at the national, regional and city levels to understand the transmission patterns of the virus, and recommend actions to control the outbreak.

“Community-wide public health measures that include physical distancing can help prevent and slow down the spread of the virus. Health-care facilities can use the time to equip themselves with appropriate capacity in terms of health-care workers, beds, isolation wards, intensive care units and protective equipment to deal with the increase in the number of cases,” Dr Patrick O’Connor, leader of the expert team to Belarus, told journalists at the end of the mission.

Physical distancing measures refer to:

  • postponing large gatherings, including sports, religious and cultural events;

  • placing in quarantine contacts of confirmed patients and people potentially exposed to the virus;

  • introducing options for teleworking, and distance learning for schools, universities and other educational institutions, and suspending nonessential business;

  • reducing nonessential movements, especially for high-risk groups.

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The experts also recommended:

  • strong government commitment and leadership to implement a blend of containment and mitigation measures;

  • public engagement by all levels of government to clearly, transparently and regularly communicate the risks, health advice and response measures, including postponing gatherings and curtailing movement;

  • continuation of essential health services and socioeconomic support for those in need, especially the most vulnerable.

As of April 20, the number of the people who contracted the coronavirus infection has totalled to 6,264 in Belarus, 51 COVID-19 patients have died. However, the Belarusian authorities have not introduced any tough quarantine measures yet. According to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, imposing a nationwide lockdown would not improve the coronavirus situation in Belarus. In his opinion, such steps might deal a crippling blow to the daily life of Belarusians.

Since COVID-19 started to spread in Europe, the Belarusian leader has repeatedly hit the international headlines due his careless attitude to the outbreak. Last week, he stated that the ‘infections are over and demanded Belarusian children go back to schools after the spring holidays had been extended twice due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

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On March 16, the president shared with the newly appointed officials his own ways of fighting infections, including the novel coronavirus. He advised going to a dry sauna, claiming that the virus dies at 60 degrees; more frequent handwashing, regular diet, and… drinking some vodka are also on his list. Later, he called the situation ‘psychosis and foolishness’.