While most countries around the world have taken extraordinary and unprecedented measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been adopting a more relaxed response to the pandemic.
According to WHO statistics, Belarus, a country with a population of 9.5 million, has recorded 94 cases of coronavirus and zero deaths.
Lukashenko has repeatedly played down the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, insisting that fears about the pandemic are “psychosis” and he has been publicly dismissive of international efforts to contain coronavirus.
However, the Russian government has stepped up its response and on Monday temporarily closed its borders, with the newest directive applying to checkpoints on the border with Belarus.
On Saturday, after playing ice hockey in front of a packed stadium in the country’s capital, Minsk, Lukashenko said the “fridge” like area was a ‘real anti-viral cure.” There is no scientific evidence that coronavirus can be killed from refrigeration.
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“It’s better to die standing than to live on your knees,” Lukashenko told state-owned TV station All-National TV.
When asked by the reporter if the pandemic would stop him from playing ice hockey, he replied: “To stop me? But why? It is possible but why? I don’t understand. There are no viruses here. Did you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them too.
“This is a fridge. It is the best for health. This is better than sport and this fridge is the real anti-viral cure!”
Neither Lukashenko nor the supporters in the stands appeared to make any attempt to adhere to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for social distancing, embracing and patting each other on the back.
While much of Europe remains in lockdown, Belarus is yet to implement restrictions on mass gatherings.
The country’s football league is also continuing as normal, with more than 1,700 fans attending the derby between two of Minsk’s clubs on Saturday.