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Belarus only football league open for business despite pandemic

The Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed the global health crisis as a “psychosis”, and refuses to follow the example of much of the globe by imposing a lockdown.

Updated: Mar 29, 2020 10:05 IST

By AFP, Minsk

Belarus remains resolutely open for business (Twitter)

As the rest of Europe shuts up shop to combat the new coronavirus, Belarus remains resolutely open for business. Restaurants in the former Soviet Republic continue to serve food, and the country’s football league plays on. Despite being at the door of a Europe grappling with the deadly Covid-19, life goes on here more or less unchecked.

The Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed the global health crisis as a “psychosis”, and refuses to follow the example of much of the globe by imposing a lockdown.

With less than 100 positive cases and no deaths in Belarus, Lukashenko this week suggested “there shouldn’t be any panic” over the virus.

He encouraged his citizens to work on the land.



“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” suggested the straight-talking former collective farm director who assumed power in 1994.

Vodka and saunas also figure on his list of miracle cures. And so, in stark contrast to leagues elsewhere on the European continent, the Belarus championship like the country’s tractors, ploughs on, undeterred.

Special measures have been put in place nonetheless including thermal cameras to check the temperature of fans as they enter stadia which are disinfected twice a day.

As a result, a rare spotlight has been shone on the humble “Vysshaya Liga”, the Belarus first division.

Russian public television channel Match TV has bought the rights to screen its matches.

And former Belarus star Alexander Hleb suggested in the German press that it could be lit up by the arrivals of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We’ve taken all the measures recommended by the Sports Ministry. All those who are in contact with fans...are supplied with gloves,” said Belarus football federation spokesman Alexsandr Aleinik. Crowds are well down though, by half last week compared to the week before, “enabling fans to distance themselves in the stands” said Aleinik.

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