Belarus president plays hockey, says global coronavirus measures are result of ‘psychosis’

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko is holding firm in his belief that the global response by other countries to the coronavirus pandemic is a product of "psychosis."

As a result, Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia, is one of the world's only places where professional sports have not been postponed or canceled.

When asked at an amateur hockey game in the country's capital, Minsk, whether he feared the spread of COVID-19, Lukashenko told Belarusian television station, All-National TV, on Saturday: “It is better to die on your feet, than live on your knees! ...I don’t understand. There is no virus here. This (arena) is a refrigerator, it is the best thing for your health. Sport, especially on ice, is better than any antiviral medication, it is the real thing.”

Neither Lukashenko nor the fans in the stands appeared to make any attempt to adhere to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for social distancing at the XIII Republican amateur hockey game in Minsk. Lukashenko competed in hockey attire before the stadium crowd and posed in close proximity with fellow players for a team photo, according to The Associated Press. While soccer has resumed in the Belarusian Premier League, fans have been checked at the entrance to stadiums prior to matches to see if they have a high body temperature.

Lukashenko, one of the longest-serving leaders in the former Soviet Union, has been in power for more than 25 years. He's intentionally kept businesses open and been keen on keeping sports leagues in action. The Belarusian government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been far different than countries around the world despite 152 recorded cases of the coronavirus, according to the Belarusian Health Ministry.

Lukashenko said last week that Belarusians “do not suffer the same psychosis as those in Western Europe" and in the country "no one is talking about the virus. In the villages, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone.”

In this photo taken on Saturday, March 28, 2020, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, takes part in a hockey match during Republican amateur competitions in Minsk, Belarus.

Last week former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alexander Hleb called his native Belarus the "only place in Europe you can play (soccer)."

"In Belarus, it’s like no one cares (about coronavirus)," Hleb told The Sun and Fox Sports Australia. “All the world now watches the Belarusian league. Everybody should go to their television and see us. ...It’s very difficult to explain our country. All leagues (in other countries) have closed but we don’t seem to think it’s a problem. Why? I don’t know. Everybody’s been training as normal, getting ready for the new season. They just don’t care."


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