Working trip to Vitebsk Oblast

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Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made a working trip to Vitebsk Oblast on 4 December.

After arriving in Vitebsk, the head of state headed for Vitebsk Oblast Maternity Hospital to see how it operates in the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the chief medical officer of the maternity hospital, Yelena Leonovich, the hospital has about 150 beds. Pregnant women diagnosed with coronavirus come here from all parts of Vitebsk Oblast. During the second wave of the pandemic expectant mothers develop more severe forms of the disease compared with the first wave. Pneumonia can develop at any stage of pregnancy. “We have a double task - to help the mother and save the baby,” Yelena Leonovich said.

At present 45 women with the coronavirus infection are in the hospital (there are 600 such patients in the country), 25 of them have already given birth. All babies are healthy. Babies are taken away from sick mothers immediately after birth. As soon as mothers recover, their babies are brought back to them. “All our mothers understand this and are okay with it,” the chief medical officer noted.

“It is good that you did not listen to these WHO recommendations: the WHO went as far as to recommend not to take the baby away from the mother when she is infected,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

During the visit to the hospital, the head of state was told about methods of treating COVID-19. The President was shown the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as antenatal and postnatal wards. In the maternity hospital Aleksandr Lukashenko talked to patients. “I said that panic was created in our country back in the first wave, and everyone believes that coronavirus is worse than cancer. This fear-mongering comes from all TV sets. Nothing of the kind. I wish you a good mood, and leave everything else on them [doctors] and on me. Get well, and thank you for babies!”, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In Vitebsk, Aleksandr Lukashenko took part in a meeting of the Vitebsk Oblast coronavirus response team. The head of state said that he came to Vitebsk to see the real state of affairs on the ground. “This pertains to treatment in general and treatment of coronavirus,” he noted.

“The situation in the world is very tense, to put it mildly. The situation in Belarus is not easy, either. There is a phrase that we all say: the situation is not easy, but under control,” the President stressed.

At the same time, he emphasized: the main indicator is mortality rate. “In Vitebsk Oblast, which is not the country’s best, two people died within the past 24 hours, none died a day before. I want everyone to hear: the most important thing is to save lives. The rest is of secondary importance, including PPE and medicines. Thanks for saving people without medicines and thanks for doing it with medicines. However, you will be held accountable for every death. That’s the most important thing - to save lives,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

“We have accumulated our own experience of fighting against this evil,” the President said. “We have learned to treat people.”

According to the head of state, the next aspect is the availability of equipment. The availability of ventilators is being monitored. About of 500 ventilators from the total number of 2,500 are now used in Belarus. “We have enough ventilators. We will do our best to avoid the deficit of ventilators,” the Belarusian leader said. Taking into account the experience from the first wave of coronavirus, regional coronavirus response teams proved effective. Therefore, a decision was made to resume their work. They should focus on the organization of treatment, the supply of PPE and medications. “When we have an opportunity to mobilize all tools and resources for the resolution of a certain issue, then we have the result. Who can organize it in Vitebsk Oblast? Of course, the governor and his administration can. Today he is in charge of these issues, especially of people’s treatment, because the lives of our people are the priority,” the President said.

According to the President, the situation in Vitebsk Oblast is not disturbing. “The situation in the region is not critical, and should not be critical,” the Belarusian leader stressed. “Is Vitebsk Oblast in need of anything: doctors, personal protection equipment, other things? Tell us. In this room we will make any decision, even an impossible one. We want to work and will implement any decision.”

The President mentioned a positive trend: the number of discharged patients is higher than the number of new hospitalizations with COVID-19. “Why is it reassuring? It means that our hospitals will not be overloaded, beds are available. Before that, the number of hospitalizations exceeded the number of discharged patients,” the head of state said.

However, according to the President, some critics say that patients are discharged too early. “Absolute nonsense! Doctors will never prescribe outpatient or recuperation treatment if they don’t see any sustainable recovery dynamics,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. Moreover, some hospitals take additional precautions and prefer to observe patients for a few more days to make sure that everything is fine.

Apart from that, the head of state cited current statistics on coronavirus pneumonias. As of today, there are 21,500 patients with this disease. 519 patients are on ventilators. The total number of ventilators is 2,500. The President added that we should not pander to certain “professional” communities and focus on figures. Certain figures depend on the number of tests. The more tests are made, the more positive results exist. In his words, it is more important to provide comprehensive medical aid to patients and use all available resources to continue treatment.

“Death rate is the main factor. In Vitebsk Oblast, which is not the best right now, two people died today, and zero people died yesterday. The main thing is to save lives,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “I want everybody to hear that: people’s lives are the priority. Other things, such as the availability of PPE and medications, are secondary. If you save people’s lives without medications – thank you. If you do it with medications – thank you once again. But you will be responsible for every death. The main priority is to save lives.”

According to the head of state, he is monitoring the coronavirus response campaign. And today he does not have any complaints against the healthcare minister, governors and members of the coronavirus response team.

“Thank God, thousands or even hundreds of people are not dying in Belarus every day. And they will not die because all of us, including chairmen of rural councils, district executive committees, oblast executive committees, the minister, and the President, are doing their best and will be doing their best to cope with this issue. We will do our best to save our people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “The medical community should focus on the treatment of people rather than on statistics. And the majority of our people are doing that.”

“Let’s save people. This is my address to doctors. We need to treat people. The treatment of people and saving lives are the priorities,” the President concluded.

During the conference with the Vitebsk Oblast coronavirus response team the head of state made a few comments in response to rumors and fake news that had been spread via Telegram channels ahead of his arrival in Vitebsk. “Before my arrival in Vitebsk Oblast the scoundrels wrote – it is even uncomfortable for me to read it – that a number of KGB servicemen had been deployed in advance. As far as I know, all the KGB servicemen are in their offices. I talked to [KGB Chairman] Ivan Tertel in the morning – everyone is in their offices,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that KGB personnel are not involved in preparing a city for his arrival. The presidential security service is the agency in charge of security matters. It is a standard international practice.

“Then they write: ‘It is obvious he is going to say that everything is fine in the country and we will defeat the coronavirus. One wonders what the nurses and orderlies, who sleep on the floor during brief breaks in their duties, will tell him.’ What a load of nonsense. Don’t they know that nurses or doctors don’t sleep at all while on duty? If they are on duty, they must not sleep,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out.

Speaking about fake news about the shortage of disposable individual protective gear that forces doctors to disinfect the disposable products and continue wearing them, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that there is plenty of individual protective gear in the country. The President himself puts on one and the same medical suit before visiting a healthcare institution. “They don’t make me new lab coat, trousers, a T-shirt, and a scrub cap on the eve of the visit. Those are disinfected in a Minsk hospital and I put them on again,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who reuses disposable individual protective gear many times. We have plenty of disposable gear.”

Telegram channels also claim that there is no clear separation between the red zone and the clean zone in hospitals. It is a complete lie, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “I changed my clothes in the clean zone together with you [during the visit to a maternity home in Vitebsk], entered the sluice and it was written ‘Red zone’ there. I put on this ‘muzzle’ and went on. I left the zone, went through the sluice into the clean zone,” he noted.

The list of similar fake news goes on and on, the head of state added. “This is the way the scoundrels ‘respect’ medics. I don’t even want to read on about low salaries and medics being forced to work above and beyond their duty. Medics are the source of information. Maybe I shouldn’t have read it but those are scum. I would like to ask these vile people one question. Do you remember when the European Union allocated €54 million to infamous protesters and these wannabe writers after the Presidential election? And €52 million for COVID-19 treatment. Representatives of the European Union stated they had sent the money to the civil society for the sake of treating COVID-19. Where is the money? Why don’t they write about the €52 million?”

“This money is funneled to those who roam the streets. You may have read their statements and you can see that they don’t have enough money. Those who have fled the country (probably about 150 people already) intercept the money on the way here. And our infamous protesters, who face riot police batons as they say, can smell it: ‘We deal with police batons while they take away our money.’ Their money is here. They are getting paid in order to lie about and besmirch the decent people, who are fighting in these red zones today,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.