The state information policy on COVID-19 is a failure, the government delays anti-crisis measures
By Zmicier Kuchlej
The state data and policy actions to address the coronavirus are raising discontent in society. The government is hesitant in taking anti-crisis measures in support of the population and the economy. Local authorities in some regions have introduced additional measures to combat the coronavirus spread.
Attempts of the state media and the president to keep coronavirus issues and the pandemic situation low-profile have failed. Last week, differences within the government regarding containment strategies and measures to fight the coronavirus became pronounced. President’s statements and the state media coverage of the coronavirus outbreak were at odds with the measures introduced by the Health Ministry, regional authorities, and the response of the civil society, the business community and the public.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has extended school vacations for another week. Minsk, Vitsebsk, Hrodna and Baranavichi authorities have adopted additional measures to combat the coronavirus spread.
The state’s inconsistent media policy is likely to have a significant negative impact on people’s confidence in state media and public institutions and further polarize society over adopted coronavirus measures.
Additionally, the Belarusian leadership has postponed the adoption of anti-crisis measures to support the economy. The Economy Minister last week held a meeting with business unions and associations but did not announce specific support measures for private business. Due to the lack of response by the state to SME requests for state support, the tension between the authorities and entrepreneurs has mounted. For instance, a Polatsk businessman has cracked back at the local authorities’ proposal to reduce rent.
The authorities continue to chasten civil society and the opposition and reduce opportunities for public activity and communication with the population. Regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the authorities amended the Council of Ministers’ resolution “On Public Events”, obliging organizers of mass events to conclude agreements with the police, ambulance, and utilities before seeking an authorization to hold an event.
A student who urged to introduce distance learning and announced self-isolation has been expelled from the university.
Overall, the authorities not only attempt to avoid assisting SMEs but are likely to increase their financial and social burden.