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We often report news from Sweden, which as a country which has not imposed mandatory measures to curb the spread of coronavirus is a subject of intense interest for those following the outbreak’s spread around the world.

However, little is said about another European country that has done even less to respond to the outbreak. Belarus – labelled “Europe’s last dictatorship” by some observers – has made almost no changes to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Belarus has stood out for its lack of official response since the start of the pandemic, with Alexander Lukashenko, who has been president since 1995, repeatedly disputing the seriousness of the virus. The country has ignored insistent calls from the World Health Organisation to implement social distancing and ban mass events, holding a large military parade in the capital Minsk, on 9 May. Presidential elections are scheduled for 9 August and candidates are campaigning as normal.

A ByCovid19 volunteer brings protective shields to be stored to a warehouse in Minsk.

A ByCovid19 volunteer brings protective shields to be stored to a warehouse in Minsk. Photograph: Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, the health ministry reported 906 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, taking the total in the country of 9.5 million to 40,765, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. The daily death toll was five on Friday, down from a peak of seven on 12 May, adding to an official total of 224 since the outbreak began.

Earlier this week, AFP, the French news agency, reported that volunteer groups in the countries had stepped in to bring supplies of protective equipment to hospitals. Its reporter met a group called ByCovid1, who were taking sacks of protective suits and face masks, funded by donations, to a hospital in the small town of Chervyen, about 40 miles west of the capital Minsk.

One of the coordinators, Andrei Tkachev, told AFP the true scale of the outbreak could be much higher. “Unfortunately the statistics from the hospitals are very depressing. And they are different from what is published officially: they are much worse,” he said.


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