16 July 2020, Thursday, 3:43
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Andrei Voynich: Belarus Risks Having Even Worse Situation Than That in Italy, Spain and France

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Andrei Voynich: Belarus Risks Having Even Worse Situation Than That in Italy, Spain and France
PHOTOGRAPH: NN.BY

Hospitals are overcrowded.

Charter97.org talked to Andrei Voynich, a well-known blogger, an activist of the European Belarus civil campaign. He has a medical degree in microbiology and virology and told about the current situation with the COVID-19 epidemic in Belarus.

- Andrei, you have a medical degree in microbiology and virology and maintain contacts with groupmates. What do Belarusian medical professionals say about the coronavirus epidemic?

- According to my groupmates and friends, a sad picture emerges with coronavirus in Belarus. First of all, physicians are mostly afraid to speak out, but at least they mention that the epidemic and deaths have become a political theme.

Secondly, there is something to talk about, because the scale of the problem is very impressive. I can't say the exact figure regarding deaths, because doctors don't have it. The information is confidential. But different sources say that people die systematically. Death certificates indicate various types of pneumonia or other lung problems. As a result, the official records show that they allegedly die from everything but coronavirus.

But these people come to hospitals with symptoms of coronavirus, lie in coronavirus departments. And they're told that they're being treated from other diseases.

- What cities and regions of Belarus do suffer the most?

- Minsk and Vitsebsk. About Minsk: my colleague told me that a month before we officially had coronavirus, all the Chinese, who were not allowed to Russia (Russia had closed the border then), went there through Belarus. That is, they arrived by plane, stayed in Minsk for a while and flew or drove to Russia. A couple of weeks we had a mass migration of people, who might have been infected. Thanks to Lukashenka, they brought us this "happiness" and Minsk suffered the most.

Then my other colleague said that a quarantine camp had already been organized near Maladzechna. Some foreigners with fever were taken there.

- What else did doctors you know tell about the situation in Belarusian hospitals?

- I commonly keep in touch with laboratory assistants and doctors. They do not contact patients directly, but they visit them regularly. Now the communication between laboratories and people is minimized. Blood is taken from a vein and directed straight to the laboratory.

My acquaintances are mainly hematologists. They work with blood and can say that even its colour indicates whether a person is contracted coronavirus or not. I mean, a common analysis shows oxygen saturation. Doctors realise that there are many potential coronavirus patients. Right now, almost all hospitals are filled with them.

The lack of protective gear is a separate topic. It is permanently raised by familiar physicians. The laboratories in Minsk still have enough. However, Barysau has some problems with gloves. People have to wash them, although this is contrary to the instruction.

Masks are still issued to medical workers but in small quantities. About gauze masks. It's just a shame. All you have to do is take this mask and spray it to make sure it does not help. This is the most shameful thing Belarus has ever produced for medicine in the history of its sovereign existence. These masks are just placebo.

- The Belarusian authorities do not introduce quarantine. Schools, businesses, kindergartens, transregional buses with sick passengers... Which areas, in your opinion, are the most dangerous? Where can another outbreak appear?

- In Minsk, because it has the highest concentration of the population. Minsk is the place where all roads run to. Outbreaks have already moved from there to the districts. But still, we do not know about them. I know that sick people are taken from Dokshitsy to Vitsebsk. Coronavirus is now present everywhere, in all parts of Belarus, although such information will not be included in official reports.

Lukashenka has done everything during his so-called "reign" to make the system work for a show. Somewhere they try to hide facts and figures or distort the truth.

I am now under quarantine in Minsk, but yesterday I had to leave the house. I was in the subway. Yes, there are not many people there. Even on the train, everyone is sitting in chessboard order. When you leave the subway, you see many people moving in the flow, staying close in large companies. These are people who willfully doom themselves to disease. They are not informed about the danger of COVID-19. That's the problem.

- Belarusian doctors are increasingly becoming victims of coronavirus, whole departments are brought to infectious diseases hospitals. Are the doctors aware that the Belarusian authorities have brought medicine to a disaster?

- They are all aware of that. Now they openly post their indignation on social networks. They openly speak out about problems. This was not typical six months ago. I used to work in the medical field and could hardly stand it psychologically. One can't get a word out of a doctor about problems, because they work under constant blackmail and pressure. They tolerated it all, but now they openly talk about the coming disaster.

Indeed: our doctors get contracted coronavirus and this will only cause an outbreak. The number of sick people will increase, and the number of healthy doctors will decrease. Correspondingly, the mortality rate will be higher as well as the morbidity rate.

- Imperial College experts in London believe that up to 68 thousand people may die of coronavirus in Belarus.

- I think that these figures are correct. And this is not even the biggest figure. According to my subjective assessment, there are more than one dozen thousand infected people in Belarus, or maybe in Minsk.

Quarantine is needed, but awareness and lost time play an important role here as well. Since Lukashenka did not do what had to be done back in February, we risk having even worse situation than that in Italy, Spain and France.

Yes, these countries introduced quarantine late, but at least some preventive information measures were taken. We have "everything's fine"; we hold the football championship; we are going to hold a parade on May 9. I think we'll only have the climax on May 9. If Lukashenka does not have enough brains to cancel the parade, Belarus will be on the verge of collapse.

- Recently, you have called on doctors not to be silent and prevent a disaster in Belarus. What can you say about those who trigger this catastrophe?

- There is only one thing to say here: it's a crime on the verge of active and aggressive destruction of people. I can only compare it with the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Now it's done in the epidemic. I have no other associations of Lukashenka's deeds and his entourage.