Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session on measures to fight the viral swine disease

    President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said that a wise approach should be practiced in fighting African swine fever. The statement was made at a government session held on 22 August to discuss the epidemic situation in the pig breeding industry and measures to fight the viral swine disease.

    “I am not so concerned about the disease containment process as I am concerned about the response of the nation to the measures taken by government agencies and veterinary services. I am getting more and more signals, the Belarus President Administration is seeing an increasing number of appeals from people regarding this matter. In essence we sometimes pay little attention or treat people rudely. While trying to accomplish a holy mission of fighting the disease, we breed another problem – negative attitudes of Belarusians to our actions, actions of veterinary services. I must warn you that it is inadmissible,” the President said.

    “Straighten things out with every individual. I do not think there are many Belarusians, who have nothing better to do than sending requests for the President to do something. Therefore, from now on we have to agree that we do not need any complaints from people! Treat people humanly while fighting the disease,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told those present. “Your excuses claiming that you are doing the right thing, you are good guys while people are bad will not be accepted!” he added.

    The head of state pointed out that African swine fever represents no danger for human health. He regretted that for now no effective measures have been worked out in the world to fight the disease, there are no vaccines and the only way out is localizing the outbreaks and slaughtering diseased animals for the sake of stopping the spread of the disease.

    “The reasons behind our having to eradicate the disease are the violation of basic sanitary norms, quarantine regulations in farms and private households. It can lead to the expansion of the epidemic area, serious damage to the pig breeding industry and the national economy as a whole,” the President said. He stressed that economy is the key problem. “We cannot allow the spread of the disease and deaths of swine in private households, farms or major pig-breeding complexes. We have already lost more than one billion rubles,” the head of state remarked.

    The development of the pig breeding industry is of special importance for Belarus. There are powerful pig-breeding facilities in all the regions. Their merchandise is sold on the home market and abroad.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that strict measures are taken by major pig-breeding complexes and no resurgence of the disease has been registered. The President was most concerned about small farms and private households. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, in 97 out of 100 cases cattle caught the disease in private households, therefore it is necessary to do everything to prevent the disease from spreading onto major pig-breeding complexes.

    “We cannot allow the loss of the pig breeding industry. It is also important that pigs are bred in nearly every rural home for proprietary consumption and for selling on the market, thus replenishing food resources of the country,” the head of state said. He noted that private households have over 20% of the total number of pigs in Belarus. “Therefore, we should render substantial aid to the population in fighting the disease,” the President emphasized.

    The international practice indicates that the only way to stop an epidemic is fast and total slaughter of home-bred and wild swine in disease foci coupled with the deployment of buffer zones. In the past measures like these have been taken by Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, and in the former USSR. The President believes that this effective method has to be used in Belarus but wisely.

    “If we find a disease focus in some small or large farm, in some small village, we have to create a buffer zone of about 5km. But we have to do it wisely and creatively instead of sitting in the office to draw a 5km circle around the village and order everything there slaughtered. Without listening to people, without understanding them. It must not happen like that! Everything should be done wisely!” the President stressed.

    According to the head of state, preventive measures are needed in order to prevent the disease from spreading. As an example the President referred to Minsk Oblast where pigs are slaughtered in a meat factory with owners granted the choice of monetary compensation or meat. “If you pay a good price for every kilogram of pork or live weight, people will give pigs to you. Therefore, in order to prevent animals from being slaughtered it now is advisable to send them to meat factories in risk zones,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that in order to achieve success in fighting the epidemic the precise coordination of actions of all government agencies is required, strict observance of the technical discipline and sanitary requirements at animal husbandry facilities as well as constant awareness efforts targeting the people. Aleksandr Lukashenko regretted that despite the taken measures the Belarusian pig breeding industry is still in danger.

    According to the President, some destructive forces are trying to exploit the misfortune by raising the hype. “We should not give them reasons to fan the fire in our society,” the head of state underlined.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that the government had set up a special staff, certain measures are being taken. However, people still complain a lot about the work. The President stressed that the government cannot stay away from the misfortune, including the resolution of the financial issues it has raised. He noted that he was absolutely against launching some programs to overcome consequences of the epidemic. “I am totally against make work. It is necessary to take concrete measures and do what has already been proven by experience,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said he was concerned about spreading African swine fever in Russia. Another powerful focus of the disease has been detected in Yaroslavl Oblast. “We cannot build a fence against the entire world, moreover, we cannot do it to Russia, therefore it is necessary to take effective measures here,” the head of state said. In particular, in his words, it is necessary to raise control over forage imports, it is necessary to reduce forage import. “We have enough forage of our own,” he added.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said he wanted reports about how the damage from the epidemic, including economic damage, had been minimized, he wanted to hear about systemic efforts and interaction with the population.

    According to Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Rusyi, the situation regarding African swine fever is under control in Belarus.

    “The situation is stabilized, manageable,” he said. “In the populated localities where we have done certain work the situation is fully stabilized”.

    Mikhail Rusyi pointed out the need to observe all the veterinary measures in order to prevent the spread of the disease. He remarked that an awareness campaign targeting natural persons will be launched.

    The Vice Premier underlined that in Belarus the responsibility of executives for fulfilling biological protection measures will be stepped up as well as the responsibility for fulfilling measures prescribed by veterinary services. Control over forage suppliers that deliver uncertified products will be toughened. The procedure used to bury diseased animals will be under control. Apart from that, it has been decided to improve the physical infrastructure of veterinary services: within a short time another six labs will be built to enable faster response times.

    “A Council of Ministers resolution will be issued where we will stipulate all the measures: support, protection, and rules for people to understand,” Mikhail Rusyi said.

    “I think we will be able to handle the disaster,” he added.

    According to Mikhail Rusyi, the main causes of contamination with African swine fever are wild animals, waste and forage as well as mismanagement by people. The virus itself is unstable, can be destroyed by special means and dies when exposed to high temperature, however, no vaccine has yet been produced in the world.

    The head of state instructed government agencies to flexibly and wisely treat people, to demand the strict fulfillment of the technological discipline, to wisely and promptly make decisions, to enable proper coordination of local government bodies, including councils of deputies.