Post-Soviet republics fight coronavirus in their own way
As many countries close their borders and grapple with rising coronavirus cases, some republics of the former Soviet Union continue to do business as usual, while their leaders offer unusual remedies in the face of the global pandemic..
For example, the Belarusian authorities are still avoiding restrictive measures that have been introduced in neighboring countries to counter the spread of coronavirus. Restaurants, parks and bars remain open. Mass sporting events are on schedule and attract hundreds of spectators against the World Health Organization‘s social distancing guidelines. The Belarusian Premier League is currently the only football competition on the continent. Lukashenko himself did not limit his public appearances, deciding to play a hockey match on Saturday.
«It’s better to die while standing than live on your knees, he said in full hockey gear in an interview on state television. – This is a refrigerator, it’s great, there is nothing better than sports, especially ice, which is a real antiviral medicine».
The quarantine will reduce economic activity in the republic, as it happens in other countries. And therefore, the Belarusian authorities are in no hurry to introduce restrictions: while the quarantine is in effect for those arriving from abroad and in contact with the infected. Belarus’ GDP in January-February fell by 0.6%, according to Belstat. Before the pandemic, the government of Belarus predicted a GDP growth of 1.9-2.8% in 2020. In 2019, the Belarusian economy grew by 1.2% after growing 3% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2017.
Belarus has officially reported 94 cases of coronavirus, so far no fatalities, but Lukashenko’s critics have questioned the statistics, warning that authorities may be downplaying numbers as the country prepares for presidential elections this year..
Lukashenka gave his own recommendations on how to fight the virus, suggesting that Belarusians drink vodka to «poison the virus» or visit the bathhouse.
«I once mentioned that people need to go to the bathhouse to fight various viruses, including this one, since Covid-19 does not like high temperatures and dies at + 60 C, as experts told me.», – said Lukashenko, adding that if there is no disinfectant at hand, you should drink vodka.
«When you leave the sauna, you shouldn’t just wash your hands – you better drink vodka, ”he said. – I do not drink and do not defend, but I am tolerant of it, at least until Victory Day on May 9».
There is no evidence yet that coronavirus dies in high temperatures, experts say.
In post-Soviet Central Asia, some local leaders are also on the path to fighting coronavirus.
In Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon continues his public speaking schedule and plans to convene parliament in mid-April.
Last week, Rahmon, who is referred to in government news outlets as «founder of peace and national unity and leader of the nation», visited cities participating in a nationwide beautification project, a republican flower contest, and gave gifts to orphans.
«This humane initiative of the head of state caused great joy», – said in a government press release.
Rahmon also continued the massive celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 22nd, taking part in the celebrations at the central stadium in Khujand city..
Iran, by contrast, has scrapped plans to celebrate the Persian New Year by banning unnecessary travel and closing stores amid a major Covid-19 outbreak.
There are no officially reported cases of coronavirus in Tajikistan, but on March 19, the country closed for international flights, which drained the country’s economy, which is highly dependent on remittances from labor migrants. And Rahmon recently consulted with the president of neighboring Kyrgyzstan on measures to contain the spread of the virus..
Turkmenistan, another former Soviet republic, takes a completely different approach. The isolated republic is ruled by authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who promotes traditional medicine in his writings, which are required reading by government officials..
The March 13 cabinet meeting did not mention the novel coronavirus or Covid-19, but it did contain a lengthy discourse on the benefits of burning uzarlik (Peganum harmala), a folk remedy, to prevent infectious diseases.
«In the first volume of the book of the head of state “Medicinal plants of Turkmenistan” methods of preparation and use of harmala decoctions are described, – the message says. – Our ancestors kept it in their houses in the form of bundles of their branches. Sometimes people fumigated their home with them. Thus, they carried out the prevention of infectious diseases.».
While other world leaders grapple with the coronavirus pandemic – in some cases in self-isolation – Berdymukhamedov continues to make time for his his main hobby is horse riding. On Sunday, the state news agency of Turkmenistan reported that the president spent the day at the equestrian sports complex in Akhalteki, where he went for a ride and began work on a new book..
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