8 April 2020, Wed 9:03

Belarusian Doctor On Authorities’ Actions Related To Coronavirus: They Wrote From Netherlands - What Sort Of Crazy People Are They? 54

11:58 24.03.2020 — Society

Aliaksandr Loban has appealed to the Ministry of Health and all Belarusians.

Doctor from Belarus Aliaksandr Loban, who worked in the Netherlands for 16 years, appealed to the Belarusian authorities asking to introduce quarantine in the country and close the borders. Why he didn’t take the coronavirus test at the airport in Minsk, what regime the doctors in Amsterdam switched to, and what priests can do now, in the report by Radio Svaboda.

“It is a matter of life and death”

Aliaksandr Loban graduated from the Medical Institute in Hrodna in 1986. He is an ophthalmologist by profession. From 2003 to 2019 he lived in the Netherlands, worked in an organization that helps people with poor eyesight. He is 56 years old. Now lives in Belarus.

On March 20, Loban posted an audio message to Minister of Health Uladzimir Karanik, doctors, and all Belarusians.

“I urge you to show solidarity and courage in this difficult time. Do not be silent! Actively express your position on social networks, on YouTube, wherever you can. Demand effective measures from the authorities, and first of all, closing the borders of Belarus from the import of the virus from outside. A lot now depends on us. This is a matter of life and death of our relatives, close people,” says the doctor.

“If you say nothing, you will reproach yourself for not having done what was needed,” Aliaksandr explains, why he expressed his position publicly.

“Total control at the border is more important than quarantine within the country”

Journalists met with Aliaksandr not indoors, but in the open air. Before the conversation, the interlocutor warned that he returned from Amsterdam 6 days ago, he does not have symptoms of the coronavirus infection, but puts a gauze mask that he bought at a Belarusian pharmacy, on his face.

Loban spent a week in the Netherlands in mid-March this year. He arrived from Amsterdam to Minsk on March 17. According to him, they didn’t check him at the airport whether he was sick, did not record his data.

At the airport, you could voluntarily take a test for the coronavirus. However, as Loban says, just one specialist took the smears. There was a line of about 30 people which could move on for several hours.

“In 20 minutes, 2-3 people passed. I could not stand so long, I had to get to Hrodna. Moreover, it is dangerous: people from different countries standing close to each other. I do not need these extra contacts. It would be necessary to plant 10 laboratory assistants who would take smears. In my opinion, total control at the border is now the most important, it is even more important than quarantine inside the country,” the doctor says.

In his opinion, those who arrive to Belarus should have their temperature measured, and fill out the questionnaire: where they came from, where to find them later.

“Encourage your parishioners not to go to churches now - neither on Easter nor on Palm Sunday”

- What, in your opinion, should be done in Belarus to reduce the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic?

- It’s worth closing the borders of Belarus for people who go just like that, for tourists who go to visit relatives. Restrict entry for non-citizens, allow only in exceptional cases. Own citizens should be accepted. I assess the situation here as relatively calm, but it is unknown for how long it will remain so.

- Do you believe the official figures given by the Ministry of Health?

- I have no reason to say that this is a lie, and there is no reason to say that this is true information either. In our country, official statistics cannot always be trusted, since they are done according to the orders from the above. Do I believe that there are 76 and more ... I do not know. Maybe because there is no normal testing in the district hospitals. A man could died of pneumonia. Who checks him, why did he die?

- What other measures, in your opinion, should be taken?

- To cancel all mass events where people tightly collide with each other. They wrote to me from the Netherlands that some crazy people live in Belarus, as this is the only country where they continue to play football, with spectators. All football, ice hockey games should be canceled.

Once again I am addressing the ministers of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church: encourage your parishioners not to go to churches now for Easter and Palm Sunday. The believers who will come are mainly elderly people, they are at risk. They will stand there close to one another. If someone infected comes there, there will be such a source of the virus expansion that no one will be able to localize it afterwards.

I believe that it is necessary to close universities, as students can listen to lectures distantly, seminars can be conducted online. In the case of kindergartens and schools, there is a problem: where will people take their children when they need to work? But if a certain threshold of the disease is reached, it will be necessary to close kindergartens too.

- How would it be correct to allow everyone to do a coronavirus test, paid or free?

- I think that's wrong. This will create crowds in polyclinics, these are unnecessary contacts. This is not an anti-epidemic measure, it can even contribute to the expansion of the infection.

- Isn't it too late now to introduce some measures in Belarus?

- If you start from the figures provided by the Ministry of Health, it’s not too late.

The epidemic in the Netherlands began after the carnival

Aliaksandr Loban spoke about the experience of the Netherlands. The coronavirus epidemic there began from the southern provinces, where a carnival was held on February 23-25. According to March 23 data, 4,749 residents of the Netherlands had confirmed coronavirus, 213 of them died.

“They did not react on time, did not take action. People who returned from the ski resorts in the Northern Italy, Switzerland, went to the carnival. Now all hospitals in the southern provinces of the Netherlands are crowded. This has spread to the whole country,” says Loban.

- What measures did the state take further?

- They canceled all classes in schools, universities. Banned the work of restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, sports organizations. Public transport worked until recently, but a driver was fenced off with a tape and more than 5 people could not get on the bus. The authorities urged people to stay at home, not to go anywhere, only for groceries or in very great need. Remain at a distance of 1-1.5 meters from each other. There, people follow advice, unlike our people.

To take action, you need to stop talking. Otherwise, you will queue in the Belarusian store for a meter and a half, as expected, and someone will come up to you from behind and will breathe in the back of your head. While the authorities and the media say that there is nothing wrong, everything is calm, that this is fake, panic ... This is not panic, these are necessary measures to combat the virus. It’s better to take too many precautions than to get what they now have in Western Europe.

My son is currently working in a hospital in Amsterdam. They take into account the Italian experience. In Italy, there is a catastrophic lack of doctors; they are sick. There (in Amsterdam - edit.) they made a reorganization. Canceled all scheduled receptions. Medical personnel were formed into teams: one team is working for one week, the other for the following week. If the first ones fail, then they will be replaced by others. So that not everyone gets sick right away. This is the principle of the military medicine.

In Italy, doctors also had to apply the principles of military medicine to patients: to provide assistance primarily to those who can be returned to duty. Here are 50-year-old and 70-year-old patients choking. They would save a 50 year old. This is a difficult moral choice.

“Demand from the authorities, give them advice, express your opinion”

- You said that the inhabitants of the Netherlands at first reacted rather recklessly to the threat of the coronavirus. What exactly changed their consciousness and forced them to take security measures? What can Belarusians adopt from them?

- For people to begin to adequately respond to this danger, they need to constantly talk about it in the media. Do not just wash your hands, do not just exclude contact with the elderly. If possible, do not use public transport. You need to be at a distance from each other. Do not line up very tightly. Do not attend mass meetings.

There the Prime Minister addressed the nation and called for all this to be done. Messages are sent via mobile phones, if there is a national danger. They regularly come to everyone: “Stay at home”, “Do not go out unnecessarily”, “Together we will win”.

I do not expect that in Belarus government officials at high posts will make such a speech, since Lukashenka said the opposite. He is a stubborn man, he never admits having said the wrong things. There is a hope that one of the Belarusian doctors, or the Ministry of Health, will express their opinion, which runs counter to the opinion of Lukashenka. For example, the chief physician of the 3rd Children's Hospital in Minsk (Maksim Acharetni - edit.) urged people to stay at home.

- How risky was his gesture in the Belarusian healthcare system, where a doctor spoke out on his own initiative without an order from the above?

- He did all he could in this situation. He spoke out to the extent that he could speak out without consequences for himself. This is a good step. After all, to say as much as I said is impossible in his situation. In my diploma there is a stamp that I took the oath of a doctor of the Soviet Union. Now they write - the oath of the doctor of the Republic of Belarus. This obliges us all. Once upon a time, doctors, to find a cure for an epidemic, injected themselves with deadly bacteria, infected themselves, and experimented on themselves.

- Now the Belarusian society is looking for something to help in the fight against the coronavirus: from raising funds for artificial respiration units to the support of doctors working with infectious diseases. In your opinion, how can individuals and companies help?

- Helping older people so that they don’t go to the grocery store, you can bring groceries to them to reduce their contacts. Do it in a non-contact way. As for assistance to medical institutions, I don’t know how poor Belarusians can help. A lung ventilator costs 50 thousand dollars. But it is possible to demand from the authorities, give them advice, express your opinion.

Loban does not exclude the possibility that the KGB could take interest to him personally on the orders of Lukashenka. But he is not going to leave the country yet. He sticks to the position: “Do what you have to do, and let it be.”

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