In this situation, people have the right to quarantine themselves.
The coronavirus pandemic is taking more and more lives. The age of patients suffering from this dangerous disease is decreasing: Italian surgeons report they already have to intubate 40-year-old patients.
Against this backdrop, Lukashenka continues to call the epidemic "noise" and "psychosis", telling to cure coronavirus with baths and 100 grams of vodka.
How can such an attitude of the Belarusian authorities to the problem No.1 in the world end? Charter97.org talked to a popular blogger, an activist of the European Belarus civil campaign Dzmitry Kazlou (Grey Cat).
- You've already told your subscribers that the Belarusian authorities lie about the number of those infected with the coronavirus. Recently an opinion of an authoritative Belgian virologist has been published. He claims that even in democratic countries the number of coronavirus patients is five times higher than the official figures. How much do the Belarusian authorities lie?
- We should realise that the lie in our country is as big as in the Soviet Union. If necessary, they will say that there is no virus at all. People see a neighbour walking down the street who suddenly falls, but everyone says it's okay. Scared people say that they have not seen anything. I heard doctors were instructed not to disclose medical data; they signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Everything is a big lie, starting with the words of Lukashenka, who says that we have "no coronavirus". He used to say so about the crisis. He says to drink vodka. The only problem is that at one time he beat up a drunken tractor driver Bondurkou, because he was driving a tractor while being drunk. Now he gives us such a piece of advice. He's a sick man and we know that he can only dictate to do inappropriate things.
The authorities hide the number of victims, the scale and the money spent, that is, how much the state has or has not allocated to fight the epidemic. They conceal the number of resources available to fight the coronavirus, the state of infectious departments. People don't know anything. Ask any person whether Belarus is ready for a large-scale epidemic. They won't give a clear answer. How many patients is a hospital ready to accept? In what city? How many hospitals are there? How many specialists are there?
It's the same situation with the number of people infected. There are no statistics. All independent statistical centers have been destroyed. Everything is underground; official "centers" will announce the numbers ordered.
- What can be the consequences of this lie? What will Belarus face when the authorities can no longer hide the scale of the epidemic?
- No matter how one hides it, the truth will come afloat. Hiding the real statistics, the authorities believe they will somehow help themselves, raise the rating and so on.
If there had been a minor problem, it could have helped. A minor problem will disappear, everything will stumble and no one will know anything... But we are talking about a pandemic; it is impossible to hide it. The number of cases will increase, the statistics will come afloat. Leaks will still occur and it will affect the "credibility" of the authorities. Trying to save themselves and stop the panic, they will, on the contrary, generate it. Not knowing the real statistics, they will come up with myths and rumours, which further contribute to panic. This will lead to serious problems.
- What can we compare the inaction of the Belarusian authorities with? How can we evaluate it given the already existing experience of humanitarian disasters?
- On a ten-point scale of this problem, I would give 5-6. This is certainly bad, but not the worst way yet. There have been times when those who tried to provide unbiased data have almost been shot. We do not have it. The authorities are trying to hush up and misinform. At least they're not coming up with tough fakes. However, this does not apply to the nonsense Lukashenka periodically voices.
What may it lead to? There will be more cases, people will learn about it and trust in the authorities will collapse. People will realise that the state is not a backbone for the people. The authorities will not save the people - they care about the dictator's opinion and what he says.
- Lukashenka keeps trying to make the coronavirus issue marginal: he called the epidemic "psychosis" and offered to treat the dangerous virus with a tractor, baths and vodka. How would you comment on the dictator's statements?
- This is his long-standing mosaic psychopathy, that is, this man is quite sick. If one looks at his life, literally 30 or even 20 years ago he beat up a man because of what he advises now.
Secondly, we know that coronavirus cannot be treated with such advice. It could be a joke if it wasn't said by an official right from the podium...
If Lukashenka had said: "Do not panic. We will inform you and do something", then it would have been acceptable. But he just said nonsense.
- Do you think Lukashenka has secured himself and his inner circle in case the situation with the coronavirus gets out of control?
- If the situation gets out of control, no one will be safe. Naturally, Lukashenka, as a fairly cowardly man, takes care of his health. Perhaps, as soon as he was told that there was such a serious problem, he ordered to ensure the safety of his life to the maximum. So if someone gets infected or dies, he's unlikely to be among the first. But he could barely make himself safe if it all goes out of control. The disease is not controlled manually; it cannot be dispersed by the riot police.
Many high-ranking people in other countries are already sick, so Lukashenka is at risk. Plus, he's at the age of maximum risk.
- How do you assess the People's Quarantine campaign, proposed by the leaders of the Belarusian opposition in the face of inaction of the authorities?
It's great. It shows that we do have a civil society, we have the strength to change something in the country. In general, all this should have been done by the state. These are reasonable measures ensured by other countries. Our country should have ensured them as well, but our state is too inadequate. It is trying to hush up the problem and people make the running.
I am glad to know that there are people who can organize everything on their own. This indicates that when the dictatorship collapses, there will be someone to hold the state power. Those who try to say "anyone but Lukashenka," "the regime will fall and there will be nothing here," "the opposition cannot do anything" need a good kick to see that the people can cope, and this regime is not the center of Belarus. We can do without it.
- What else can we do to make the authorities introduce quarantine? Why do we need to take these measures now without delay?
- To reduce the number of infected, to lower the spread, to prevent infection in kindergartens, schools and universities. These are reasonable measures to curb the spread of the virus. Sooner or later it will spread anyway and many people will catch it. But the point is that if there are too many cases at once, the health system may not be able to cope with such a burden at once, so it must prepare. Quarantine is certainly required to save lives, to help and to ensure proper organization.
Total measures must be introduced. That is, all schools must be quarantined, and universities must switch to online learning. At least for two or three weeks, and then see what happens next.
Ordinary people need to act as opposition leaders asked them to. One can take an unpaid vacation and not send children to school. Whatever is ordered there, teachers are adequate people; one can always say that someone is sick. We need to find a way out on our own. These are natural measures to protect yourself from contact with a contagion. If the authorities do not declare quarantine, then people must declare it themselves and demand it from the authorities: write petitions, paste up posters, make statements, send requests to officials.
- Will the authorities and Lukashenka bear responsibility for inaction during the coronavirus epidemic?
- They have already incurred moral responsibility. Every person who suffered from the inaction of the authorities is already at their door. It is clear that as long as Lukashenka is in power, he will not be brought to justice.
But in future, during lustration and investigation of crimes, a topic related to the coronavirus may be added to the agenda. Our Criminal Code has an article about criminal inaction. It's the same here. Failure to take appropriate measures by the state is a failure to perform direct duties. It's a crime. It deserves punishment.