Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko heard out a report on the epidemiological situation in Belarus on 19 March.
The meeting at the Palace of Independence was attended by Head of the Belarus President Administration Igor Sergeyenko, State Secretary of the Security Council Andrei Ravkov, Healthcare Minister Vladimir Karanik. Partaking in the meeting were also representatives of the Belarusian Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, the Minsk Research Center of Surgery, Transplantology and Hematology, the Belarusian State Medical University, the Belarusian Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
“I have invited you today to discuss the epidemiological situation in Belarus. It is especially important amid the coronavirus psychosis,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to the head of state, he wanted to meet only with virologists and epidemiologists at first: the President is aware of the position and approaches of the healthcare minister. “But the minister said that he is a statesman and will not hog the blanket. I think, it would be great if the healthcare minister reports on the current situation and you share your opinions,” he said.
The President recalled that China had been the first country to deal with Coronavirus, then the Asian region also had to deal with it. The Chinese managed to cope with the virus and now share their experience with others, the head of state noted. “At least, I don’t have any facts when they refused to answer any questions or denied anything. I have signals from the Chinese side that they are ready to provide all-round support to Belarusians,” he said.
The World Health Organization has recently declared COVID-19 a pandemic. However, according to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus has always treated fight against infections, not only coronavirus, very seriously. “Virtually no country in the world is coronavirus-free today. But the situations are different: one patient in North Africa, and 475 deaths within 24 hours in Italy. There is a big difference,” the head of state said.
Many countries have closed their borders for foreigners. Five neighboring countries of Belarus also did that. “This is absolute stupidity, and there have already been confirmations. It does not protect Russia in any way. Besides, they close their borders selectively. But it’s up to them. People will assess everything what is going on with borders here,” the President said. “The situation has been artificially created in the world when a person cannot get home. We must do our best to help our citizens get home as soon as possible. They should return to Belarus, be safe and secure,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
The head of state said that panic is the worst epidemic in the world. He asked about the current epidemiological situation in Belarus and the forecast regarding coronavirus and other infectious diseases for the coming days and weeks. “This is not only about coronavirus. Other diseases are also dangerous. What measures are taken to prevent the import of new infections to Belarus?” the President wondered.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that there are many foreign nationals, for example, students and workers of foreign enterprises in Belarus. “Do they get comprehensive medical attention and care? Just like it was done with a student from Iran who, fortunately, had coped with all those viruses and had been checked out of hospital,” the head of state said.
He also spoke about the work of Belarusian doctors and stressed that healthcare personnel should be equipped with all tools and get financial incentives for their difficult work, including extra-time work. At the same time, the President expressed confidence that there are no problems in this sphere.
“In late winter – early spring the number of seasonal infections was on the rise in Belarus and worldwide. I am very concerned about it. I am speaking not even about coronavirus, but also about other acute respiratory infections, including flu. The most dangerous consequence of these viruses is pneumonia,” the President said.
The head of state cited some data from comparative statistics for 2019 and 2020 concerning the number of deaths from pneumonia. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, there were 196 such cases in January-February 2019 and 138 cases now. In total, 498 people died from respiratory diseases in the first two months of 2019; 328 people died from such infections at the beginning of 2020.
“I want to emphasize once again: there are no deaths from confirmed coronavirus on the territory of our country as of today. Thank goodness. I want you to provide a detailed plan of further efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and to treat patients from any infections,” the President said. Then he turned the floor over to the healthcare minister.