The outbreak of coronavirus is yet to come in Belarus.
Leaders of the Belarusian opposition and public figures urged the citizens of our country to the People's Quarantine. It aims to stop the epidemic of coronavirus. The quarantine is declared for the period from March 23 to April 5.
Poet and politician Uladzimir Nyaklyayew tells Charter97.org why Belarusians need the People's Quarantine and what consequences the inaction of the authorities may result in.
- Uladzimir Prakofievich, once you told about the difficult fate of entire generations of Belarusians. Now the world and our country face coronavirus pandemic. In your opinion, what is going on and how can this end?
- Recently the Minister of Health of Lithuania Aurelijus Veryga said that the coronavirus raised a dilemma: either readiness for voluntary restraint and quarantine or natural selection. I guess that this phrase clearly outlines the prospect of the infection not only in his country but also in Belarus and the whole world.
Therefore, the decisions made by the leading European countries and the USA seem correct to me. They offer a way for mankind to come up with a "shield" against infection, a vaccine that would stand in the way of infection.
Today's leadership of Belarus runs counter to the actions we observe in Europe and America. The Belarusian authorities make increasingly risky decisions. I see how even economically advanced countries cannot cope with the coronavirus. I am afraid that the situation in Belarus may be much worse.
- You and other well-known politicians and public figures signed an appeal to introduce the People's Quarantine. Why do you think it is necessary?
- You know, I have recently returned from America and Europe. And the first thing I did was voluntary "self-quarantine".
I believe that any person who may pose a threat to others, not only relatives and friends, should do the same. Therefore, I did not doubt encouraging people to take care of themselves and their compatriots.
This must be done because the current situation in Belarus has not reached the climax. It's about to come, and the disease spread rate does not imply the best scenario.
- There is such an expression - the bar of history. It means that current events are realized a bit later. At the same time, poets have a "deep vision" that allows them to evaluate many things thoroughly right now. What will be your judgment of the actions of the Belarusian authorities during the coronavirus?
- These actions can cause mass casualties - the extermination of the people. And historical memory shows us how we were exterminated not only by viruses but also by wars, famine and genocide ... If something similar to it happens now, it will be the bar of history.
I realise that the authorities have failed to bring any good to the economy for over 25 years. The country depends on its eastern neighbour. Lukashenka has no opportunity to retain power without Russia's help. The decisions made by his regime are primarily political ones related to the fear of losing power.
The quarantine will cause the shutdown of enterprises and an even greater economic slowdown, which means a further decline in living standards, lack of food and, as a result, people on the streets.
One can see their heinous "logic". I know for sure that I would not like to be in the shoes of the authorities today. Not only because I can be tried, but also because I will have to be morally liable for it before future generations.
- How many Belarusians do you think obey the quarantine?
- I am on quarantine right now and use only the information available to me: telephone talks with friends and acquaintances. A lot of people call me now because everyone is at a loss. They think that I know more being a public person and a poet.
I know exactly as much as everyone else - it's almost nothing. But I can say for sure: the People's Quarantine is ongoing in Belarus. All my friends, relatives and others are aware of the danger posed by the coronavirus epidemic and observe the voluntary quarantine.
- Why is Lukashenka so persistently refusing to see the problem of the spread of coronavirus in Belarus?
- The decisions made have nothing to do with medicine. Lukashenka prefers to stay idle, leaving the "space open": let people get sick to build up a collective immunity. It looks like casting problems aside: there is no need to make any efforts as it happens to everyone sooner or later.
I would like to note that such "approaches" are unacceptable for Belarus. Words of leading epidemiologists prove this. I have not heard any medical specialist saying that this scenario is acceptable for Belarus.
Everyone warns to be maximum beware of coronavirus. We do not have enough beds for isolation in our hospitals. We lack medical equipment of good quality in the country.
Lukashenka is afraid to decide upon quarantine. It means a tanking economic situation as well as the social situation. Let's recall the 1990s when the situation turned out to be stalemate and the workers, who had nothing to support their families with, took to the streets of Belarus. With crowbars in their hands, they reached the Government House, and then the situation in the country changed.
At that time Lukashenka was in the Supreme Soviet and saw the Square crowded with protesters. He remembers this well and is afraid of it. He is afraid because he knows that people can overthrow him. Then he will stand before angry people.
You know, in this situation, Lukashenka reminds me of Putin: both dictators found themselves on the same "submarine". Putin is at loss all the time now because he feels the conventionality of his power. A person cannot be legitimate when the Basic Law stipulates two terms and he has been in power for 20 years. Lukashenka feels the same.
- Against the background of reports from democratic countries, the data of the Belarusian Ministry of Health on the coronavirus look strange. The agency is silent for a few days, then gives minor figures, while our neighbours have already had thousands of patients. Do you think the truth is hidden from Belarusians? What is the scale of this lie?
- Of course, these figures are understated. It is enough to compare them with the data of our closest neighbours and Europe as a whole.
Besides, a major part of people infected with coronavirus is simply not detected, because our health care system suffers from a lack of tests. As practice shows, not all tests undoubtedly prove that a person has coronavirus. Once our Ministry of Health said that the Belarusian tests were allegedly recognized by the WHO, and then I learned that they were Russian. Meanwhile, many experts in Russia argue that their tests do not always accurate.
- Nevertheless, more information about the deaths of pneumonia in Belarus becomes available. Do you think it's just a coincidence or they hide information about coronavirus-related deaths?
- Lukashenka's power has always been based on lies. It will not change. Until he resigns, we will live in infection.
We live not only in the realities of coronavirus but also in the infection of injustice, lies, crimes. Under Lukashenka, Belarus is the country of corruption and smuggling. It is all an infection. When the coronavirus appeared, the weakest points of our society infected with this power turned to be even more vulnerable.
God forbid, Lukashenka will bring the situation to undeniable, obvious casualties. He will not hide it either from our neighbours or our people.