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13 Apr 2020

WHO welcomes Belarus’ efforts to combat coronavirus

WHO welcomes Belarus’ efforts to combat coronavirus
Dr. Patrick O'Connor

MINSK, 13 April (BelTA) – The World Health Organization welcomes measures taken by Belarus to fight coronavirus, however it recommends to step up the response, Dr. Patrick O'Connor of the WHO's  Regional Office for Europe who leads the WHO mission in Belarus said at a press conference on 11 April, BelTA has learned.

Patrick O'Connor praised such important measures as laboratory testing of suspected cases, contact tracing and isolation of confirmed cases, quarantine of those who were exposed or could potentially be exposed to the virus. In his words, this is the cornerstone of all coronavirus response measures.

“Belarus has implemented containment measures using its system-based approach and laboratory capacity for early diagnosis,” the head of the mission said. The experts saw the country’s close attention to contingency planning and capacity building efforts aimed at accommodating all patients diagnosed with coronavirus. Belarus has ensured uninterrupted operation of the public health system, including treatment of patients with chronic diseases, mothers and children and patients with mental disorders.

At the same time, WHO noted that Belarus was entering a new phase in the evolution of the outbreak, as the virus had begun spreading through communities in the capital and in other parts of the country. Therefore WHO recommended introducing community-wide measures to increase physical distancing, and continuing with isolation measures, testing and tracing the contacts of coronavirus patients, in other words, the measures that are already in place.

“We welcome the practices implemented by the Belarusian government. However, the isolation measures should remain in place and be increased. Physical distancing means prevention of mass gatherings, quarantine of contact persons and confirmed cases, as well as those who could potentially be exposed to the virus.” WHO recommends using teleconferencing, reducing unnecessary movement, especially of those at risk. 

“The measures taken at the national level will be able to help slow and curb the spread of the virus and enable the healthcare system to build capacities to better meet patients’ needs, to ensure the availability of medical supplies, bed capacity and personnel in the event of the surge in coronavirus cases,” Patrick O'Connor said.

WHO believes that a lot will depend on individuals. “Now it is time to increase efforts while maintaining momentum in the good work that has already been done to test all potential cases, trace contacts of confirmed cases and isolate people who got sick,” the head of the mission said. “We recommend adding physical distancing to the current measures. This is not a mandatory quarantine and curfew,” Patrick O'Connor said.

According to Healthcare Minister Vladimir Karanik, it is not necessary to introduce stricter measures at the current stage. At the same time, if each person reduces nonessential contacts and fulfills the social distancing recommendations, Belarus will be able to prevent an exponential growth in coronavirus cases.

The WHO mission was in Belarus on 8-11 April. The mission was invited by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko. The mission evaluated the country’s response to COVID-19 and approaches to providing medical care. The WHO experts inspected healthcare facilities of Minsk, Minsk Oblast and Vitebsk Oblast. Recommendations will be given based on the mission’s findings.

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