The regime’s initial denial of the seriousness Chinese coronavirus spread in Belarus was replaced by the use of infection as a weapon against the people after the outbreak of protests in August 2020.
First, in the regions of Belarus, there have been cases of isolation of political activists under the pretext that they are allegedly first level contacts. At the same time, the authorities refused to inform who exactly from the activists’ circle of communication was infected, explaining their decision with medical secrecy. The activists who, in the opinion of local officials could act as organizers or leaders of the protests, were demanded to self-isolate, avoid public and crowded places (i.e. not participate in protest actions). In case of violation of these restrictions, the perpetrators were threatened with a fine of 1,350 BYN, despite the fact that the average median salary after taxes was 770 BYN in May 2020. Compliance with the requirements of self-isolation was tightly controlled by the police. In fact, under the pretext of quarantine measures, “politically unreliable citizens” became subject to police supervision and de facto house arrest.
Secondly, the Covid-19 factor was used for propaganda purposes. In this case, two tasks were set:
— use the hypothetical possibility of infection in crowded places (primarily protest events) as a means of intimidating protesters;
— to explain to the hesitant or neutral people the emergence of the second wave of Covid-19 by protest actions, thereby trying to raise anti-protests sentiments. The logic is the following: participation in a protest is equal to infection and the spread of the disease outside the circle of protesters. While treatment is conducted at public expense, i.e. at the expense of those people who did not participate in the protests, or are even against them.
At the same time, the authorities completely ignore the fact that one of the main channels for the spread of coronavirus in the fall of 2020 is the education system (preschool, school and higher education institutions). Especially taking into consideration the fact that children are mostly asymptomatic carriers of the virus. The authorities refuse to use distance learning formats. To date, no electronic platform for distance learning has been created, the procedure for paying the teachers who teach remotely has not been determined.
Thirdly, there is reason to believe that in places of detention of citizens arrested during the protests the regime purposefully creates conditions for the widest possible spread of the coronavirus among “politically unreliable” Belarusians. The purposefulness of the actions of the authorities is evidenced, in particular, by the following facts:
— as a rule, people are arrested for maximum possible terms, despite the possibility of using alternative types of administrative punishment;
— those arrested are denied access to medical care of adequate quality and professional level, and sometimes their demands for medical care are simply ignored;
— the arrested are often not given personal hygiene products, there is no access to hot water;
— personal protective equipment is issued only symbolically (1 mask for an arrest period of 15 days), while the restrictions on the possibility of arrested persons receiving parcels have been introduced (parcels are received only once a week, the days of receiving parcels may change without prior notice; a large number of arrested persons are moved to serve their sentences in other regions, which makes it difficult or even impossible for their relatives to provide them with the necessary things, including personal protective equipment);
— keeping those arrested for political reasons in crowded (close) cells, even when there are free cells in the arrest places;
— constant movement and mixing of arrested persons from different cells and from different cities, even when conditions allowed keeping one group of people in one cell (detained on the same day, arrested for the same term).
The conditions of detention in places of arrest have resulted in a high rate of coronavirus infection among the detained. Moreover, the infection took place precisely at the places of arrest. Among the arrested people we interviewed 100% were infected with coronavirus in places of serving sentences.
Obviously, this sample is not representative enough, and the overall infection rate is lower. But it can be confidently asserted that conditions for the maximum spread of Covid-19 have been deliberately created in places of detention of those arrested for political reasons.
Thus, there is reason to state that the Belarusian regime is using Covid-19 as a tool to terrorize the citizens of Belarus for their political views.