The situation in the country is critical.
For several days in a row, doctors report that clinics in Vitsebsk are full of coronavirus patients but they are diagnosed with pneumonia. Doctors say that the epidemic may develop under the Italian scenario.
What is happening in a major regional center of Belarus? How likely is it that the situation may get out of control? Charter97.org talked to the coordinator of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy from Vitsebsk, the teacher with many years' experience Tatstsiana Seviarynets:
- One should have rung the alarm yesterday when current terrible cases remained unknown.
A week ago the first information appeared about a woman who died of coronavirus in Vitsebsk. She 58 years old. The authorities quickly refuted it. A person, being uninformed, is at risk. I mean people like me. I am not a doctor, but a pensioner at risk. My husband suffers from heart disease, my son-in-law has diabetes. They're at risk group too. What should we do when a terrible disease comes, and we don't even know its scale?
To keep people alive, they should get unbiased information. First of all, it will alarm those who think that it is not their concern and they can run around the city without any protection and antiseptics. It also signals that we should stay at home. Thirdly, different countries have already provided recommendations. Now the Internet is filled with "prescriptions" of self-treatment and "prevention": they say that one should eat garlic; use household soap; drink water with lemon and honey... Recommendations should be reliable. The Ministry of Health (MH) should give them.
But our MH is waiting for an excuse and looks at Lukashenka. In a pandemic situation, he behaves like a murderer, ghoul, monster and a man who has initiated the genocide of the Belarusian people.
This biased information, non-disclosure agreement signed by doctors, police officers guarding hospitals generate rumours, myths and panic. When I know what I should do, I feel safe. This is what the MH should take care of.
The authorities cannot admit that hospitals are not ready for such cases of a pandemic. There are no strong arguments that actor Viktar Dashkevich, who died in Vitsebsk hospital No. 2, contracted it at the rehearsal. It is not possible to control the situation with patients diagnosed with pneumonia and isolate them in the boxes for coronavirus patients. Doctors have no protection as well.
Our city experiences a terrible and embarrassing situation. I have a concern about all Belarusians now - as a normal person who loves his family, friends, neighbours and country. I do hope that we will overcome this epidemic. However, we have to think how to fight the coronavirus and the one who let it spread uncontrollably, throw him off the golden chair he has been sitting in for 25 years and thinks that he is a king.
- What do your friends think about the situation in Vitebsk? What have you faced personally?
- My daughter works at the university. A sick person visited them. They thought it was cold. We still have a Soviet mentality that fever and cold is not a reason to be absent at work. It turned out that the sick employee had coronavirus. Those who had direct contact were examined. My daughter then immediately did not allow children to go to school, because she thought she could be a carrier. Thank God, her COVID-19 test was negative.
- The authorities only recognized two deaths. Can we rely on these figures?
- The authorities had to admit these two deaths. Firstly, because the Dashkevich family is very responsible. They voiced in the media, which caused the death of actor Viktar Dashkevich. They're just brave and responsible people.
Doctor Natallia Larionava also published a message on social networks. It unveiled the real number of infected people and the situation in hospitals in Vitsebsk.
The problem is that the authorities will not publish accurate statistics on morbidity and coronavirus-related death rates. Their "figures" indicate only those cases when it is no longer possible to hide or falsify the information. The girl, whose mother died on March 30, announced it. Then Dashkevich died on 31 March. All indications are that these two people were not the only ones who died of coronavirus.
Not only the biased statistics but also the authorities' attitude towards the dead looks outrageous. What did Lukashenka tell about Viktar Dashkevich? "Why do you go to work if you're sick?" He slang dirt at the grave of a decent man... Since 1972, Viktar worked in our theatre. Everyone in the city knew Dashkevich and his most intelligent family.
Now we feel both grief and indignation. I am not afraid of Lukashenka, I would say in his eyes that he is a kingpin. Are there real men around him who could tell him that? He must think of his family and his sons and grandchildren. Justice will come. So why do you behave this way?
- Why can't the authorities introduce quarantine at least on the local level?
- Officials are not used to making independent decisions. Lukashenka made up his "vertical" of D-students. It's easier to hold them under control. I say this right in the eye of our Vitsebsk authorities when I go to their offices.
For example, there is a regional infectious diseases hospital in Vitsebsk. We've been going to offices for five years because it's in a terrible state. There are two buildings in the hospital. A few years ago, one building was completely repaired, there are boxes for isolation. But the old building is a god-forsaken spot where one can get an infection. How can people work there?
When on March 27 the Vitebsk City Executive Committee decided to limit the work of clubs, theatres, entertainment centers and so on, it became known only on March 30. The authorities put this information on the website. All over the city sellers work without protection means, without antiseptics. No one says that schools have been treated with antiseptics to at least prepare them for the new quarter. It's high time to shut down schools for quarantine.
And now it's just going to be worse. Vitsebsk needs more doctors. Now the authorities will see what they have brought the country to.
- By the way, what is going on in Vitsebsk schools now? Didn't the doctors' confessions raise concern among the administration and parents?
- Now schools are on vacation for the rest of the week. We don't know what will happen, because orders may change every day. Remember how they couldn't decide on vacation dates?
Let's see what our stupid and irresponsible the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health will decide.
I don't know what will happen next, but we must fight for the lives and health of our children. Parents should not let children go to school.
- Your son Pavel Seviarynets became one of the politicians who signed the call to introduce the People's Quarantine in Belarus. How do you assess this initiative?
- The authorities should have offered this initiative. It is noteworthy that the signatories have neither the police nor any other subordinates. But they have another important and strong instrument: the influence on people.
I am very grateful that my son, Andrei Sannikov, Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, Henadz Fiadynich, and all those people who care about the lives of Belarusians have taken this initiative.
All of them are media people and Belarusians trust them. In general, now the opposition leaders are those who influence the situation.
Due to the criminal inaction of the authorities, now we are all responsible for the situation in the country. A teacher from Kopyl district died. THere's information that somebody in Ivye has already died of coronavirus. There are dozens of victims of this pandemic in Vitsebsk only. About a hundred people are in hospitals and the same number are under examination in my hometown, Luninets.
It's the right decision to announce the People's Quarantine. Let people listen and be careful.