Sports are shut down around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There’s no NBA. There’s no Olympics. There’s no Chinese basketball.
But in Belarus, the games go on as a leader defiant in the face of the global pandemic plays hockey in a public exhibition and encourages citizens to drink vodka to combat COVID-19.
‘There is no virus here’
“I don’t understand. There is no virus here,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told a reporter on Saturday prior to playing in a hockey game, per NBC News translation. “This is a refrigerator, it is the best thing for your health. Sport, especially on ice, is better than any antiviral medication. It is the real thing.”
He gave the interview on the sidelines of an arena with fans packed into the stands in defiance of the World Health Organization’s social distancing guidelines.
‘In Belarus, it’s like no one cares’
Saturday’s hockey exhibition isn’t the only sport happening in the Eastern European country that borders Russia. Belarusian Premier League soccer has continued — with fans in the stands. Officials are screening people for fevers before they’re admitted. If no fever, game on.
“In Belarus, it’s like no one cares,” Belarus native and former Barcelona and Arsenal star Alexander Hleb told The Sun last week. “It’s incredible. Maybe in one week or two weeks we will stop here. Maybe our president is just waiting to see what happens with the virus.
“Everybody here knows what’s happened to Italy and Spain. It doesn’t look good. But in our country, people in the presidential administration believe it’s not as extreme as the news says.”
Lukashenko, a leader who’s held power in the former Soviet Union state for 25 years, has referred to preventative shutdown measures in other nations intent on stemming the spread of the virus as a “psychosis” while suggesting work is the cure for COVID-19.
So far, Belarus has 152 reported cases of the coronavirus, with just one death.
Tractors, vodka and saunas
“People are working in tractors,” Lukashenko said on March 16, per the Washington Post. “No one is talking about the virus. There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone.”
He also recommended that people drink and wash their hands in vodka and visit the sauna to thwart the pandemic.
“I don’t drink, but recently I’ve been saying that people should not only wash their hands with vodka, but also poison the virus with it. You should drink the equivalent of 40-50 milliliters of rectified spirit daily.
“Go to the sauna. Two or three times a week will do you good. When you come out of the sauna, not only wash your hands, but also inside [with] 100 grams [of vodka].”
Lukashenko predicted that the virus would be abated by Easter.
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