The Coronavirus Epidemics: Belarusians Do not Keep Calm but Carry on

Social and political actors, including opposition activists and church leaders also reflect this split. For example, while the Catholic Church reduced its activities to a minimum, the Orthodox Church is less restrictive and some Protestant groups openly ridicule the threat.

The mystery of the official data

At the moment, the Belarusian authorities reported over 6 thousand cases of Covid-19, while the official death toll stands only at 51.[1] Nevertheless, the data coming from the Belarusian authorities on the epidemic situation seems tricky to interpret for a few reasons.

First, for some time, the Ministry of Health has been providing the information in an irregular, selective and disperse manner, which undermined its credibility.[2] It seems that the authorities believe such an opaque information policy would prevent Belarusians from panicking.[3] This, however, on the contrary, has exacerbated panic and fear among many people. Moreover, the official data from the Ministry of Health differs from the one provided by local authorities and, thus, may bring an additional confusion.[4]

Finally, it seems that the official statistics does not all the deaths due to Covid-19. Some media outlets reported cases deaths of people who were initially diagnosed with coronavirus, but the officials denied coronavirus as their cause covering up the real number of infected and fatalities.[5]

Where does the denial come from?

From the very beginning, the authorities, many media outlets (both independent and state-run) and the society overall, leaned towards the denial of the coronavirus threat. As officials kept emphasising, the country’s health care system has got enough hospital beds, ventilators as well as personal protection equipment in the case of the outbreak of the epidemics.

Whereas other neighbouring countries introduced restrictions on social life to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, at a first glance, the Belarusian government has been keeping calm trying to persuade people to carry on with their usual work and activities. The authorities still insist that the annual military parade to mark the end of the Second World War would take place as scheduled, yet, this year exceptionally in the evening.[6]

Moreover, as Mr Lukshenka emphasised, he did not even consider quarantine, because it would result in serious financial harm to the state’s budget. Some part of the society, too, even opposition-minded, shared this view, arguing that Lukashenka’s position is, in fact, saving the country from a possible Russian threat.[7]

The authorities strongly advised against panicking and Mr. Lukashenka came up with an original solution to the coronavirus epidemics – the “tractor therapy”. He suggested that working hard in the fields, regular attendance of sauna and drinking vodka should be sufficient to protect oneself.[8]

This is an excerpt from my article “Corona-Epidemic: Nich bereit, aber bisher keine Katastrophe” published in “Religion und Gesellschaft in Ost und West” (RGOW 05/2020; in German).


[1] For the updated information see more at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ [Accessed 14/04/2020]

[2] Read more [Accessed 13/04/2020]

[3] Read more at https://m.nn.by/articles/249059/ https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=249940 and https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=249278  [Accessed 10/04/2020] It seems that only from 03/04/2020 the Ministry of Health has begun  providing the updated information on the Covid-19 in the country [Accessed 15/04/2020]

[4] Read more at https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=250204 [Accessed 18/04/2020]

[5] Read more at https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=249070 and https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=248329 [Accessed 14/04/2020]

[6] Read more at https://www.belta.by/society/view/parad-ko-dnju-pobedy-projdet-vecherom-385368-2020/ [Accessed 10/04/2020]

[7] https://www.svaboda.org/a/30509079.html [Accessed 25/03/2020]

[8] Read more at https://belsat.eu/en/news/tractor-and-some-vodka-lukashenka-s-formula-for-combatting-coronavirus/ [Accessed 09/04/2020]

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