At least 13 disabled orphans fall sick with coronavirus in Belarus

At least 13 disabled orphans fall sick with coronavirus in Belarus after country’s president dismissed fears about the disease

  • Ten staff members have also been infected at the Vesnova orphanage in Hlusk
  • It homes 147 young people with severe disabilities and weak immune systems 
  • Alexander Lukashenko said riding tractors and drinking vodka would beat virus 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

More than a dozen disabled orphans have been infected with coronavirus in Belarus – just weeks after the country’s president dismissed fears about the disease.

At least 10 staff members as well as 13 children had contracted the virus at the Vesnova orphanage in the central Hlusk district as of Thursday.

The centre, which cares for abandoned youngsters and those born into poverty, is home to 147 young people who suffer from severe disabilities and weak immune systems.

The Vesnova orphanage homes severely-handicapped children such as Maria, pictured in 2016

Ministers are now being urged to move those who have fallen ill to hotels and other accommodation, despite Alexander Lukashenko’s recent dismissal of the seriousness of the virus. 

Adi Roche, founder of Irish charity Chernobyl Children International which financially supports the orphanage, said the situation was ‘critical’ and that some of the children were ‘extremely ill’. 

‘There are no painkillers, no cough bottles. We are really worried and we feel we cannot abandon the children,’ she told Irish Public broadcaster RTE.

She added that ‘their chances of survival would be very poor’ due to the severity of their disabilities.    

It comes as Mr Lukashenko has dismissed fears about the outbreak as a ‘psychosis’ and has not closed borders or imposed strict lockdown measures in the eastern European country.

After claiming earlier this month that Covid-19 had killed just four people, the president insisted in a bizarre speech that working on tractors would provide protection from the virus, as would drinking vodka. 

The centre, which cares for abandoned youngsters and those born into poverty, is home to 147 young people who suffer from severe disabilities and weak immune systems 

There were 8,773 confirmed coronavirus cases in Belarus as of Friday, of which 396 are in the Mogilev region in the east, and 63 deaths in total. 

In an effort to contain the disease, employees at the orphange have started working in shifts, contacts between different groups of children have been stopped, and visits prohibited.

Schools in Belarus have been open since Monday after a three-week holiday break.

In neighbouring Russia, people have opened their homes to psychiatric patients and disabled children after an emergency government measure allowing people to take residents of state institutions home. 

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