Vitsebsk region can become a second Lombardy?
The situation with the coronavirus in Vitsebsk is deteriorating. The media have already released testimonies of Vitsebsk doctors that local hospitals were overcrowded and the epidemic may get out of control following the example of Northern Italy.
March 31, it became known that Viktar Dashkevich, an actor of the Vitsebsk National Drama Theater named after Jakub Kolas, died of coronavirus. The authorities could not hide this death, as it was a famous actor. At the same time, there is evidence that 22 people have died in Vitsebsk of coronavirus, while about 1000 people are infected.
Charter97.org talked to Volha Zhurauskaya, a Vitsebsk blogger, about the situation in the city.
- What is happening in your city now? Are hospitals overcrowded with people who are diagnosed with ARVI and pneumonia, but who have obvious symptoms of coronavirus?
- Unfortunately, that's true. When I was taken to hospital on March 20 with suspected coronavirus, it turned out to be uneasy to leave the territory. It's closed, we have two police officers at the entrance.
When I left the hospital, these officers were wearing plain clothes. They grabbed me by the hand and started pulling me inside trying to find out how I got there and why I was leaving. I said that the ambulance had taken me there and they had let me go. When the policeman started pulling my hand, I said that I would call the police, and he answered that he's an officer and showed me his ID. I managed to leave the hospital. Before that, I had my tests and was allowed to go home until the results were ready. They said I had no call in two days then I was healthy.
People who bring parcels are allowed only up to the hospital gates. I saw the man gave a parcel there and went home.
There are a lot of people who are diagnosed with pneumonia. Hospitals are overcrowded, even corridors are full. Doctors are not allowed anywhere. Doctors in a hospital ER wear a white jumpsuit and a mask, but junior medical staff is not provided with this. Many wear capes and masks without respirators.
Doctors do not want to share details. They say everything is fine, stay at home and try to avoid crowded places. I think they have an order not to share details.
At the weekend the weather was warm and sunny in Vitsebsk. People went on picnics, children rode bicycles, especially since it's a holiday. After that, we had a sharp increase in diseases, which are officially diagnosed as pneumonia.
Anyway, it's an epidemic.
- Blogger NEXTA reported 22 dead and 1000 infected in Vitsebsk. Only the actor was officially registered as one who died of coronavirus. How many people do you think could have been infected and died in Vitsebsk?
- Unfortunately, I can't provide accurate figures about deaths, but there are already about 1000 people contracted coronavirus in Vitsebsk and the district. Those suspected are placed in the same room with almost recovered people.
People are diagnosed with pneumonia. People are locked up in wards, they can't go out. Typical pneumonia does not require such restrictions.
- Can the Vitsebsk region become the Belarusian Lombardy?
- Yes. Vitsebsk region may indeed become second Lombardy. It's likely to happen if the authorities do nothing and undisclose the real facts about the coronavirus.
I am very concerned that the scenario of Northern Italy may reoccur in our country. Moreover, tourists have recently arrived here on a Russian plane. The locals had their temperature measured and Russians just went to the city and no one took their tests.
The situation with the epidemic in our country is horrible. If employees of the MIA are forbidden to leave the Vitsebsk region and enter it, it is indicative.
- How would you comment on the authorities' dismay of your video where a child is tested for coronavirus?
- I was fined the maximum - 30 basic units - for shooting the video, although there was no violation.
I wanted to show people how it happens because there is a panic in the city. No one knows how and where to pass tests, what to do next, how to protect themselves.
I was the first to show what happened, poverty and squalor in medical institutions. It was a TB clinic, where everything should be crystal clear. Their roof falls, the porch falls apart, doors haven't been changed since this hospital was opened.
It's all rundown. Instead of treating, the medical staff has to tape the rips. They wear gauze masks, although the respirators are needed. Then these people return to their families, relatives and friends.
Coronavirus can hurt everyone. When I went to the police department last week, an ambulance picked one of their employees. He had a condition described by doctors: coughing, lungs burning, high fever. He was sitting in an ambulance. I saw it.
I think it's high time to impose strict measures. To officially declare a quarantine and require people to stay home. Our hospitals are already overcrowded; medical professionals can't cope with all this. I'm even afraid to imagine what's going to happen.
As for the video, it just added fuel to the fire. The authorities want to show that the truth about the coronavirus is punishable. I ask people to disseminate information. It's very hard to fight alone.
- What do your friends in Vitsebsk think about the real situation with the coronavirus and the inaction of the authorities?
- We all see what's going on. People are sick, wear masks. Everybody sees how the medical staff fails because they work for 18 or even 20 hours.
Everybody is trying to learn something: someone is calling the Ministry of Health, someone through acquaintances. People are in an information trap. Many people do not know how to get reliable information. The authorities do not provide us with it.
It is hard to believe that one person died of coronavirus.
- What do you think of the People's Quarantine announced by the opposition leaders? What should one do when the authorities have refused to protect citizens?
- We are on our own and I support the People's Quarantine. Citizens must resist the epidemic: stay at home.
The authorities have left us to the merсу of fate. In the end, Lukashenka will say that "everything is fine," no panic. But the reality will turn to be different.