3 June 2020, Wednesday, 9:34
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Vitsebsk Resident: The Situation in the City Is Disastrous

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Vitsebsk Resident: The Situation in the City Is Disastrous
PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS

Everyone saves oneself.

The situation with coronavirus in the Vitsebsk region is being more discussed on the Internet. At first, Belarusian police officers were banned from entering and leaving the region. At least several police officers are under quarantine. On Monday, it became known about the sick actor of Yakub Kolas Vitsebsk Theater. The actor is in ICU and connected to the ventilator. Although, the HM (Health Ministry) stated there were no patients on a ventilator in Belarus.

Even later, students of Vitsebsk State University (VSU) were recommended not to return to classes.

Why does the HM keep lying? What is the real scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Belarus?

Alena Yanushkouskaya, the public activist and blogger from Vitsebsk, answered questions of Charter97.org.

- I update information on coronavirus in my Facebook group "True Belarus". I know everything. They say that Vitebsk TB clinic, infectious diseases hospital, partially emergency hospital, trust and railway hospitals treap patients with coronavirus.

It was told about the riot police near the railway hospital. Today we went there to check it up. There was no riot police but the gates were closed. One could give a parcel through the gates. There was law enforces there, not the hospital staff. They did not comment on it.

We do not know the real situation. We think that the situation in Vitsebsk is tough. People discuss it and share information. Some people have relatives working in hospitals. A lot of things are just hiding.

On Monday, Volha Zhurauskaya, the blogger "Filming is allowed", was tried. The head of the department of infectious disease was there. He immediately rejected my statement that they had signed a non-disclosure agreement. He explained how a patient's acceptance went. They wear protective gear, meet an ambulance, accept people. The conversation about the coronavirus was short. It's the fact that they keep us mainly uninformed.

People move around the city and it's just scary. Of course, some people already distance themselves, but the real situation is very grave.

- Do people believe the figures provided by the HM?

- Of course, they do not. Nobody believes it. There are only hatred and complete denial of the authorities. Whatever the authorities do now, it will be worse for them. There is no excuse. The public sentiments were already terrible, Lukashenka's rating was declining. Now it's reached the bottom. People confront it. Everyone saves oneself. There is an understanding that one has to stand one's ground.

- Your region borders with Russia. It has no control at all. Could this have affected the epidemiological situation?

- No doubt, the borders should have been closed immediately. They are not under control even now. People are entering the territory of Belarus without any problems. They are asked whether they have a temperature. If not, they go farther.

- Don't you think that against the background of spring holidays, the beginning of the summer cottage season an outbreak of coronavirus may start in Belarus?

- Absolutely! We need strict quarantine measures. People need to distance from each other. The climax of the pandemic must be stretched out in time to avoid an excessive load on medical professionals. In this situation, we just can't wait for help. If we have an outbreak like in Italy or Spain, the game is over. Our medical professionals will be the first to get sick. I don't understand the current behaviour.

- Do people blame Lukashenka?

- Yes. The fish stinks from the head down. Lukashenka is now the root of all evil in our country. Especially in the situation with the coronavirus. It's not about some social or economic problems, but about the life and death of citizens. Many people already take it as genocide.

Lukashenka is subject to criticism. He does not take any measures, on the contrary, advocates some nonsense and gives inadequate proposals to fight the virus with vodka, a tractor and a field, as well as hockey. They are going to hold Slavic Bazaar in Vitsebsk. It's horrible. Instead of fighting the infection, the money is spent on the wrong things.

Now there is so much information about coronavirus, that you just can't follow everything. But we're going to write appeals and electronic petitions. We have a strong group of activists in Vitsebsk.

- How do you think about the idea of the People's Quarantine, which was proposed by leaders of the opposition and civil society?

- I take it well. We should observe the People's Quarantine. Lukashenka doesn't announce an official quarantine because he doesn't want to pay for sick people. Belarusians can't be quarantined because of lack of money; many people work for pennies. Today, the authorities must let everyone go home and pay people sick leaves.