Covid-19 in Belarus: how many people are really infected

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In the past couple of days, authorities with unbridled optimism have been reporting to taxpayers about several models of the Covid-19 epidemic in Belarus, which confidently show a decrease in the incidence rate already in late May — early June.

The problem with modelling is that it relies on already existing data. This data is not always complete. In addition, as applied to the Chinese coronavirus, one should note that epidemic models vary from country to country, taking into account demographic and cultural factors.

The old proverb says that there are no healthy people — there are only under-examined ones. We will build on this, drawing attention to the data on the professional group, where the number of under-examined ones is much fewer, than somewhere else.

On May 5, 2020 the Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus Yury Karaeu said that about 500 employees in all services and institutions of the MIA have been infected with the Chinese coronavirus. Of course, any extrapolation is lame. MIA is certainly a section of society. But the it is very specific group of people. Moreover, this specificity is both positive and negative in relation to the risk of COVID-19 infection of employees and military personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The positive thing is that for the most part we are talking about young people under 45 years of age with good health who regularly undergo medical examination. The negative is that the majority of them are men (and they are more susceptible to infection than women) who, by virtue of their profession, cannot limit their circle of communication and work with all categories of population. The exception, perhaps, is only cadets of educational institutions and the privates of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs: they can just be quarantined.

It is necessary to note that speaking about the number of infected, Mr. Karaeu mentioned specifically servicemen. The fact is that the MIA staff can be divided into servicemen/military personnel, i.e. persons who have been awarded special/military ranks, and usual employees, i.e. civilian staff. The number of people in the first and second group is not known for certain. As of December 2016, our calculations yielded the following staff numbers: servicemen of the internal affairs bodies — 39 thousand people, Internal troops — up to 14 thousand people, civilian personnel — about 16 thousand. Thus, we are speaking about 53 thousand people of servicemen. At the same time, the factor of the shortage of units must be taken into account: if in the Internal Troops it is insignificant and can be ignored; in usual militia units, the known shortage has been 10%.

Taking into account the known data, as of May 4, 2020 the level of detected infection of servicemen and military personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is at least 1% of their total number of 49 thousand people (staffing number minus a shortage). Or 2.86% of all cases of infection detected in Belarus. At the same time, 34 employees and servicemen of the Ministry of Internal Affairs recovered, i.e. just over 1% of the total number of people recovered on the indicated date.

We emphasize that we are talking about detected cases of infection. There is no information that the Ministry of Internal Affairs organized continuous testing of its employees. Obviously, the real number of infected people is much higher, mainly due to people having no symptoms.

But even the available figures suggest that, as of May 4, 2020, the minimum (!) number of people infected in Belarus is more than 94 thousand people, most of which remain undetected. Which continues to negatively affect the epidemiological situation in the country. This is exactly what should be the base for building models of the possible development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Belarus.

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