Common law enforcers lack personal protective equipment
By Andrei Parotnikau
Despite Lukashenka’s bravado, the coronavirus outbreak is threatening the whole of Belarus. Response measures undertaken by security forces are insufficient to ensure personnel safety.
Belarus is resorting to law enforcement capacities as part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, the 8th brigade for radiation, chemical, and biological protection has referred 60 units of equipment to Minsk for the disinfection of healthcare and industrial facilities (including indoor treatment).
Simultaneously, the military authorities have taken some measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 among military personnel, such as deploying medical posts at military checkpoints, ensuring daily examination and if necessary, thermometry of all military and civilian personnel. Dismissals, visits, and other events related to the movement of military units have been restricted.
The Interior Ministry, together with healthcare workers, enforce supervision of some 10,000 people (the exact number has not been disclosed) subjected to self-isolation due to COVID-19 to ensure their compliance with the requirements. Sanitary quarantine checkpoints have been deployed at the border with Russia.
Yet a centralized supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) for common policemen and military personnel has not been organized. Moreover, there were no reports about law enforcement leadership being concerned about this matter. The Interior Ministry only advised its staff to wear gloves and masks in public places, which they must purchase independently. Hence, #ByCovid19 volunteers, who assist healthcare providers with PPE, have received requests, inter alia, from elite military units for assistance in obtaining PPE. Border guards receive assistance from their international counterparts.
The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated the lack of an integrated response in addressing the challenge in Belarus. While recognizing the seriousness of the situation, neither the political leadership nor the law enforcement leadership has responded efficiently to protect personnel who perform their duties in the new reality. The Soviet attitude to common people and military personnel as to consumables remains relevant.