Every family can have losses.
Belarusians have to collect information about the real situation with the coronavirus epidemic in the country.
In the conditions of silence and inaction of the authorities, they have to rely on the initiative of doctors, public activists and independent bloggers, who often take risks to recreate a reliable picture of the disease spread.
Charter97.org spoke to the public activist Volha Maiorava. Her son studies in Vitsebsk. The city is in a difficult epidemic situation.
- The geography of the coronavirus is expanding in Belarus. Social networks and telegram channels provide more information about new settlements affected by the epidemic. How would you comment on this? How dangerous is the situation in Belarus now?
- Well, Lukashenka has reached his goal. His officials tried to track contacts only of those who came from abroad. They did not say that it's necessary to prevent contamination inside the country. As a result, we have a map of the epidemic, which reflects the entire geography of Belarus. I guess it may even be too late to introduce quarantine as it was introduced, for example, in Poland. After all, the entire territory of the country is already contracted. Quarantine is certainly needed, but the authorities have hopelessly missed the moment.
If quarantine is introduced now, we will start at a more severe, almost devastating point. The virus has already reached almost every corner of Belarus. The quarantine should aim at localizing the infection within each territory. This is more complex to do. It should have been introduced at the very beginning of the epidemic.
Unfortunately, there is another important point: the organization of quarantine should be accompanied by financial assistance to employees and business from the state. In Belarus, there is no fund to support people who have been left without work. Lukashenka's main crime is that he has ruined the economy. Now Belarus has approached the crisis being ruined and unprepared; the state has no money for social support. This lack of money is covered with "no quarantine is not needed".
- Lukashenka recognized only a few coronavirus-related deaths. The Ministry of Health is extremely reluctant to publish data on contracted people. Is the information about the number of diseased and victims reliable?
- I am not an expert, but I can say that the real picture should seriously differ from these data. I must be sick too, but I can't get into any reports by definition.
If I ask for testing, I will be refused because I have not been in contact with foreigners or came from abroad. A person like me is not included in official statistics. However, many people I know already have the same symptoms.
I believe that the number of people infected should be great, based on what I know about this infection and how careless our citizens are. They do not receive signals from the state and do not believe that there is any danger. There can be no small number of people infected in this situation. I believe we should talk about thousands of contracted COVID-19 by now.
- What do your friends know about the real epidemic situation in Minsk or other regions of Belarus? Have you had to deal with cases of COVID-19?
- Despite the fact that I live out of town, my son studies at a college in Vitsebsk and he went there for a session.
We did hope that he would be allowed to pass the exams quickly, especially since he studies well. But the college administration made it clear that there was an order from above not to let anyone go and also to control the students at classes.
That is, my son had to be in Vitsebsk and come to my place for the weekend. As a result, I have a disease that I still can't recover from, and it's hard for me to breath sometimes. At this moment, I cannot find good words for the college administration.
My son told me about the rumours among the students. They panic at the moment. According to rumours, it is known that doctors examine teachers. When it comes to students, there is no control over their health. People are held in the college. This is a barbaric attitude to students, especially since people from other parts of Belarus come there. It turns out that the session is over now, and everyone is taking the infection to their homes.
- Doctors report about the collapse in hospitals not only in Vitsebsk, but also in Minsk. The departments designed for pneumonia are overcrowded and doctors can't cope with it. Can the situation in Belarus follow the scenario of Italy and Spain, where about 1000 people die every day?
- When I read the comments of my friends on Facebook or messages I receive personally, it seems that we are already in that way.
First level contacts go home, people with pneumonia are also being treated at home. I can't give names (to protet information sources).
No one will feel better if the death certificate has an inscription "SARS". I don't understand, who are the authorities trying to fool? I don't even have an idea who can believe that our situation is not close to the Italian one.
- Will the authorities be able to hide such huge losses?
- They will fail. Even if they draw good figures, it will remain a crime in the public mind. Such things are not forgiven. Sooner or later, they'll be billed.
Mikhail Pastukhou, a former judge of the Constitutional Court, wrote an article and analyzed in detail which articles of the Constitution and the Criminal Code were violated by the authorities in the epidemic.
Among them are crimes related to failure to inform people and neglectful attitude to their duties. Lukashenka is not fulfilling his constitutional duties. I believe there are grounds to consider his crimes in an international court.
- Once Chernobyl undermined the rest of people's trust in the CPSU and accelerated the collapse of Soviet power. Could the coronavirus be Chernobyl for Lukashenka?
- The situation with the pandemic is even worse. The results of Chernobyl have been delayed in time. Radiation was invisible, many died in military hospitals.
If the same situation as in Italy or Spain occurs now, people will die and it will be more obvious to society.
I think the social consequences will be graver. Even if it does not result in mass demonstrations, one cannot gather in conditions of epidemic, the society will not forgive Lukashenka. After all, every family can suffer losses, like during the war.
- What can stop this tragedy?
- First, honest stories of doctors. It feels bad when those who work directly with the patients are accused of hiding the facts.
I think the falsification of diagnoses is done by a fairly narrow circle of people. It is good that people and doctors start to publish reliable information on social networks.
And the last thing: the Belarusian society should address to international structures. It would be very effective. It is not enough to laugh at Lukashenka and quote him. One should say that he commits a crime.