Why is information about the coronavirus being withheld from us?
Last week, Belarusian opposition leaders and public figures announced the People's Quarantine in response to the inaction of the Belarusian authorities in the fight against Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The quarantine will last from March 23 to April 5.
Leader of the REP trade union Henadz Fiadynich told Charter97.org, how the People's Quarantine is carried out in Belarus and why it is necessary.
- You're one of the leaders, who signed the application for the People's Quarantine. Why was it required?
- Our Belarus is not on Mars, it is on Earth. Other countries do their best to control the virus because when it spreads, it will be too late to do something; such preventive measures will be useless. It was a signal to citizens: we need to take care of ourselves if the authorities do not take specific steps to protect us.
- How, according to your observations, is the People's Quarantine being carried out?
- Sometimes in the evening, I go outdoors to see what's going on on the streets. I am more upset to see mainly young people wearing masks. Masks will not save us from everything, but today there is no clear state program to protect our nation from coronavirus. In this situation, even these, not the most reliable, means of self-protection are good.
The same applies to our organizations and enterprises: it was high time to give appropriate orders and instructions. Those who can work remotely should have done it. Why do sellers on Komarovka work without masks today? Different people come to them, any food market can now become a center of the epidemic.
Why did the authorities leave the working people without simple means of protection? Not to incite panic! Sellers at the market may be ready to wear a mask - but one needs to get permission. In Belarus, one needs to ask for permission to protect oneself!
I believe that the authorities make an inexcusable mistake in this situation. And this is the mildest wording. I cannot even find words to describe how top officials treat such a dangerous epidemic. It's not even a complete disregard, but sophistry from the TV screens.
I know people who arrived from abroad to Minsk airport. Some of them wanted to swab the coronavirus, while others did not and they returned to the city without any problem. What is this?
Yes, the economy faces hardships. Yes, we are perfectly aware of severe recession, but still, today's health and lives are at stake. After all, only people can help the economy to revive. Today, Belarus has no robots for them to go to work.
In general, the duty of normal authorities is to take care of the health of their itizens regardless of age, nationality or religion.
- The trade union has repeatedly protected workers from the recklessness of the authorities. How does the situation look now at the enterprises of Belarus?
- Some enterprises measure temperature of all workers at checkpoints. We should clarify how it looks at big enterprises. In my opinion, it should be done regardless of the number of employees in all places.
In our country, people are bound by the contract system; they are afraid of being fired and may even come to work with high temperature. Everybody needs a job. Everybody is afraid of losing it, especially now, and the contract system punishes employees.
- What can happen at enterprises and educational institutions if the authorities hush up the problem and do not introduce quarantine?
- This will depend on specific situations at a particular enterprise. Evil will out, anyway. But if you clear hospitals today, you prepare for the coronavirus. Why are you fooling people then? People should be informed, then it's easier for them to control the situation. It's easier for the state to fight the coronavirus then. I want to say that if, God forbid, we have lethal cases and they are confirmed, I think that people will not withstand keeping such facts. The authorities will have problems. One can't do that to people.
- Earlier you said that all the patients were discharged from the cardiology department of the 3rd city hospital in Minsk to clear places in case of mass hospitalization of COVID-19 patients. What does the situation look like in hospitals now? What do Belarusian medical professionals say about the situation with coronavirus?
- It happened not only in the 3rd hospital, but in others as well. Everyone knows now that all planned visits to hospitals and polyclinics have been suspended. This has never happened before, so medial professionals are preparing for something. Why is it kept from people? The public should know it. If there is a clear instruction, meetings once or twice a week, let people know about it.
I can understand that the Minister of Health was ordered not to say anything. However, you guys should make it clear that some hospitals in different cities of Belarus have been deliberately cleared to treat patients with coronavirus. What's wrong with that? Why is it being kept? Why do we get information from rumours or social networks, from people who keep in touch with physicians?
- Our neighbouring countries are now taking unprecedented measures to protect their citizens. How would you describe the inaction of the Belarusian authorities?
- They behave irresponsibly towards their people. Everyone wants to live today, tomorrow and the day after, regardless of age.
I believe that sooner or later they will introduce quarantine because the situation will not let them treat people like this anymore. Judges will decide whether it was criminal.
I would like to address the heads of the enterprises now: time has almost run out. Don't be afraid of orders from above. Superiors can decide how their organizations will work, consult people, get their support and go ahead.
If tomorrow somebody gets sick at an enterprise, even a state enterprise, imagine what will happen. So many people can keep in touch with an infected! It can cause a complete lockdown. Do you want to experience this?
One can stop the process today, to quarantine the enterprise for three weeks while the situation will become more or less clear. Meanwhile, I am afraid of one thing: it can only be clarified "at the top", but not for the public. It's not typical for our country to tell people the truth.
- How can events develop and what to do for the authorities to introduce quarantine?
- I think that all organizations, public movements and parties should be involved in this.
At that, we should think not about the economic component, how to keep the enterprise afloat. It comes later, now people are of the highest priority. Therefore, we must stand together and put forward their claims to Lukashenka for him to immediately introduce quarantine. We just need to use the experience of our neighbours. There's no need to reinvent the bike.
If today our citizens do not take care of themselves, no one will help. Everyone should realize that we have a civil society. Citizens and the ruler stay on different sides of the trench. It should not be like this in a normal state, especially during a pandemic.