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Belarus President backs vodka and saunas as remedies for COVID-19, says 'there are no viruses here'

Lukashenko has continued to strike a defiant tone amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 34,000 people around the world
UPDATED MAR 30, 2020
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (Getty Images)
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (Getty Images)

Even as most of the world goes under lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 730,000 people worldwide, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko is flouting all guidelines while insisting that saunas and vodka would protect the citizens of his country.

Speaking to media following an ice hockey game between his presidential team and a side from Belarus' Grodno region that hundreds attended, Lukashenko claimed that ice hockey was an "anti-virus" remedy.

"It's better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees," he boasted before telling reporters "there are no viruses here" when asked if there was anything that would stop him from playing ice hockey.

"There are no viruses here," he said. "Did you see any of them flying around? I don't see them too. This is a fridge."

Lukashenko has continued to strike a defiant tone amid a pandemic that has killed more than 34,000 people around the world.

He has also previously said that the concerns being raised about the COVID-19 pandemic were a "frenzy and psychosis" and suggested that working in the tractors, going to saunas, and drinking vodka could protect people from the virus.

"People are working in tractors. No one is talking about the virus," he said, according to the Washington Post. "There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone."

"I don't drink, but recently I've been saying that people should not only wash their hands with vodka but also poison the virus with it," he continued. "You should drink the equivalent of 40-50 milliliters of rectified spirit daily. But not at work."

"Go to the sauna. Two or three times a week will do you good. When you come out of the sauna, not only wash your hands but also inside (with) 100 grams (of vodka)."

Belarus is the only country on the continent that has continued to host its football league as usual, with fans also attending these matches in the thousands. This past Saturday, March 28, a match between two teams from the country's capital, Minsk, attracted 1,750.

Fans did have their temperature checked before entering the stadium, but very few wore protective masks and many were pictured shirtless.

Furthermore, Lukashenko has vowed that Belarus will still celebrate Victory Day — a day when elderly veterans who served the country during World War II parade through the streets — on May 9 despite data showing older people were more susceptible to contracting the virus in public spaces.

"We are not canceling anything," he said. "We will host all the events we have planned … Let God protect us from the coronavirus."

He also praised President Donald Trump's call for businesses to reopen amid the pandemic and for Americans to get back to work. "There were many people urging me to close borders, enterprises and begin a nationwide quarantine. Back then I made a principled decision: we will implement a quarantine only when it is really needed," he said.

Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, has 94 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far.