Belarus sees outbreak in disabled orphanage after calling virus ‘psychosis’

Medical employers sit inside an ambulance near a students’ dormitory in Minsk on Tuesday. (AP pic)

MINSK: Several people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in an orphanage for 170 children with developmental disabilities in Belarus, the local authorities said late on Friday, without disclosing the exact number of cases.

The first case of the virus had been found in one of the employees at the orphanage, according to the local authorities of the Mogilev region, where the institution is located. After that, tests were conducted with all employees and residents.

“Some have received positive test results. At present, most of them have no symptoms of the disease,” said a statement from the Executive Committee of the Mogilev region.

Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed fears about the coronavirus outbreak as a “psychosis” and has not closed borders or imposed strict lockdown measures in the eastern European country.

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.

The residential school, located 18km from the regional centre Glusk, cares for children with special needs in mental and physical development, whose parents in most cases are either impoverished or abandoned their children.

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

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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