Belarus emerges as Eastern Europe's coronavirus hotspot

Belarus emerges as Eastern Europe's coronavirus hotspot
Belarus has become coronavirus hotspot / bne
By bne IntelliNews May 29, 2020

Belarus is among the five European countries reporting the highest cumulative numbers of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases over the past 14 days, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the regional director for Europe at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said at a media briefing on May 28.

"The five European countries reporting the highest cumulative numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 14 days are Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belarus and Italy," he said, according to a transcript published by the WHO the same day.

Over the past weeks, the nation's health authorities have reported over 900 new coronavirus cases on a daily basis. The total number of coronavirus cases in Belarus has grown to 39,858, while 219 people have died as of May 28. At the same time, leading media outlets have speculated about censorship of the official data over the past two months.

Dr. Kluge added that Spain, Italy, the UK and France continue to account for 72% of all COVID-19 deaths in the region.

"Understandably, as the weeks pass, people and politicians alike are eager to reopen businesses and return to workplaces. 48 countries across the WHO European region are adjusting their public health and social measures. The most common measures that are eased first are the opening of non-essential businesses and relaxation of domestic movement restrictions," he said.

Over the past 14 days cumulative cases in the European Region have increased 15% and the region still accounts for 38% of cases and 50% of deaths globally, according to the WHO.

Earlier, the WHO had urged Belarus to increase "physical distancing" as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak entered "the community transmission phase" in the country.

The statement has appeared against a background of growing criticism of the Belarusian authorities, which have refused to impose a quarantine on the country. Earlier in March, Lukashenko told citizens to take to the fields and drive tractors to fend off the virus, and told his government the pandemic was nothing more than a "psychosis".

According to the WHO, physical distancing measures list: postponing large gatherings, including sports, religious and cultural events; placing in quarantine contacts of confirmed patients and people potentially exposed to the virus; introducing options for teleworking, and distance learning for schools, universities and other educational institutions, and suspending non-essential business; reducing non-essential movements, especially for high-risk groups.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko said on April 22 that Belarus will not disregard the recommendations of the WHO but will react to the developments accordingly.

"The measures recommended by the WHO should be studied in detail," he said. "But what if they, let's say, recommend us to impose some measures up to the curfew? I emphasise once again: if such a need arises we will impose the curfew, isolate cities, towns and villages. But is the country facing such a problem today? No. Therefore we will not shrug off the recommendations, but we must act accordingly, based on a set of recommendations, our experience."

Lukashenko added that Belarus has significantly increased the capacity of healthcare institutions, the capacity to produce domestic drugs and medical products.