In an announcement on Tuesday, the president of Belarus became the latest world leader to have tested positive for the coronavirus, as reported by The Hill.
While confirming that he had contracted the virus, Alexander Lukashenko said he was “asymptomatic” and has fully recovered.
“Poison the virus”
“Today you are meeting a man who managed to survive the coronavirus on his feet,” he said. “This is what doctors concluded yesterday. Asymptomatic.”
Lukashenko has proven to be a controversial figure amid the ongoing pandemic, defying recommendations to limit travel and recreational gatherings while proclaiming that vodka or a steam at the sauna would “poison the virus.”
Known as an avid hockey player, the 65-year-old Lukashenko also opined in March that the public health crisis would not prevent him from engaging in one of his favorite pastimes.
“To stop me?” he asked in response to such a suggestion. “But why? It is possible, but why?”
He continued by diminishing the threat posed by the coronavirus, which he has also described as “psychosis,” suggesting the virus was not even present.
“I don’t see them”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “There are no viruses here. Did you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them.”
Lukashenko’s decision the following month to permit travel across the border along with gatherings for sporting and other events has been met with considerable criticism. The backlash led to a number of protests, which were in turn met with a security crackdown that included the arrest of his primary political opponent, Siarhei Tsikhanouski.
A reported 543 people have died of the virus since Lukashenko’s decision, but he declared in his announcement this week that “97 percent of our population carry this infection asymptomatically.”
He joins a growing list of world leaders to contract the virus, including reports in April of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hospitalization due to his illness. His fiancee, Carrie Symonds, later confirmed that there were times that “were very dark indeed,” but expressed thanks to medical staff and those who send kind wishes for his speedy recovery.
Despite his controversial stance on the issue, Lukashenko’s announcement this week proves that nobody is immune to acquiring this highly communicable virus.