Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has explained why his government continues to stubbornly refuse the introduction of nation-wide restrictive measures to tackle the coronavirus, a month-and-a-half after most of the rest of the industrialized world has put various ‘stay at home’ orders in place.
“There are some people pushing us, saying ‘come on, Lukashenko you blankety-blank, introduce quarantine’. Listen, people would raise me up on pitchforks if I did so,” the Belarusian president said, speaking to residents of a rural area in Gomel region, southern Belarus on Sunday.
“There is no need to do so, although we do not deny that we have people who are sick. We have not closed the country, we have not stopped production. And, what I can tell you for sure is, if we created a panic, we would be in real trouble,” Lukashenko added.
Lukashenko also suggested that part of his reasoning for refusing cross-the-board quarantine measures was related to possible dangers of a weakened public immunity in the face of the virus. “What could happen after isolation?...Yes, someone will get sick, be taken from their homes and treated. Everyone else is sitting in their apartments, their stuffy apartments, exhausted, angry, frustrated, frightened and intimidated. Now they need to be released, it’s necessary to end the isolation regime. But the virus is still out there, people are getting sick. In France up to 400 people [a day] are dying, in Britain it’s 600. They open the gates and let people out, and [weakened] people get attacked by the roaming virus. And you’ll have a second wave of infection,” he argued.
“Therefore, the second decision I made was to act according to the situation. If it’s necessary to isolate, we will isolate. If it’s necessary to quarantine, we’ll introduce a quarantine. If we must, we’ll impose a curfew….But is this what our people need? They don’t need this now,” the Belarusian leader noted.
In recent weeks, Lukashenko has made a name for himself amid the global coronavirus pandemic over his blunt refusal to institute nationwide restrictions to try to battle the virus or flatten the curve of its spread. Western media have accused him of ignoring the danger posed by COVID-19 and poked fun at his off-the-cuff remarks last month about the benefits of driving tractors, drinking vodka and taking dry saunas to shore up immunity. He has brushed off such criticisms, however, stressing that while Minsk would not disregard World Health Organization advice, it would continue to act according to local circumstances and based on the need to maintain the functioning of the economy.