As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a major impact all over the world, organised sports league have ground to a halt. Be it at grassroots level or the top professionals, there is very little live sport at the moment.
There is one exception. We are of course talking about the Belarusian Premier League. Whereas every other European league took the decision to stop mid-season due to the coronavirus, in Belarus they have started the campaign in the midst of the health crisis.
They are now two games into the season, with spectators allowed in the stadiums. There have been some slight measures. Before the game between FC Minsk and Dinamo-Minsk the temperature of fans was taken before they entered the stadium. Around 3,000 attended the match yesterday, a match which was won 3-2 by the home side.
— ФК Динамо Минск (@FC_Dinamo_Minsk) March 29, 2020
However, it is largely business as usual in Belarus. Shops and restaurants remain open, and while some people have chosen to take their own precautions, they are under no obligation to do so.
As of March 27th, Belarus had officially diagnosed 94 cases within the country, with no deaths. As such, COVID-19 is not being taken all that seriously by the nation's authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and has labelled the pandemic as a 'psychosis'. Last week, he said those in the west had completely overreacted to the spread of the virus, and that working on the land was as good a cure as any:
The civilised world is going nuts. It is absolute stupidity to close state borders.
No one is talking about the virus. In the villages, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone.
This isn't his only suggestion to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. He said on March 16th that vodka could be the answer:
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.
You should drink the equivalent of 40-50 millilitres of the rectified spirit daily. But not at work.
This message has seemingly permeated into the consciousness of the general public. A large proportion are not treating this as a serious health concern.
Aleksandr Hleb, the former Arsenal and Barcelona player and the biggest talent the country has ever produced, said that he will heed the advice given by the Belarusian leaders.
Hleb finished his career in his home nation, officially retiring earlier this month. He took to Instagram to say people should not panic and must trust the advice of the Government.
Our footballers are taking to the pitch without panic and are playing. Among them are many people I know, and if a real threat appears to their health, or the health of fans, I am sure that matches would be stopped.
It seems unlikely that these matches will be stopped anytime soon.
Image credit: Sasa Dzambic Photography / Shutterstock.com