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Andrei Yahorau — Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko is irresponsible” - EuroBelarus
Saturday 6 June 2020 | 21:37

Andrei Yahorau — Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko is irresponsible”

09.05.2020  |  Politics   |  www.aljazeera.com,  
Andrei Yahorau — Al Jazeera: “Lukashenko is irresponsible”

He said Belarus would likely face economic tightening not only as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but also a Russian trade oil crisis that worsened this past winter.

Belarus, a country of about 9.5 million people where most live in urban centres, has been run by the same president, Alexander Lukashenko, since 1994, and is now grappling with one of Europe's highest per capita coronavirus infection rates, see Al Jazeera.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, there are at least 19,255 cases of the new coronavirus.

COVID-19 has led to the deaths of at least 112 people in the country, but some experts say that many coronavirus-related fatalities are registered as cases of pneumonia.

Lukashenko, who is campaigning for the presidential election to be held by the end of August, has repeatedly played down the danger of the coronavirus, saying a lockdown would be ineffective, unjustified and bad for business and society.

He still wants to go ahead with a military parade on Saturday, celebrating the 75th anniversary of World War II.

The World Health Organization recently singled Belarus out for a “lack of adequate social distancing measures” and called for the country to shutter nonessential businesses and enforce distance learning.

But the country's approach remains relaxed — it has so far advised self-isolation for those who have tested positive or returned from a foreign country and said people should maintain a 1.5-metre distance.

The president's office declined Al Jazeera's interview request.

Andrei Yahorau, an analyst at the Centre for European Transformation, a Minsk-based think tank specialised in Central and Eastern Europe, said:

“Lukashenko is irresponsible. You need to explain to the people what's really going on.”

While the Ministry of Health has taken measures to encourage social distancing, it cannot overrule Lukashenko, he said.

Schools, which were closed for three weeks around Easter, have now reopened. However, parents have the option to keep their children at home.

Universities were allowed to switch to e-learning but many did not.

Andrei Yahorau has withdrawn his two children from nursery and lives with his family in self-isolation.

But while critical of Lukashenko's approach, Andrei Yahorau is also sceptical about a full lockdown.

“Belarus doesn't have the resources to implement that,” he said. “Companies should decide which industrial processes could be stopped and which ones cannot.”

He said Belarus would likely face economic tightening not only as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but also a Russian trade oil crisis that worsened this past winter.

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