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Belarusians leave jail with COVID-19
Window in the TDF cell / Euroradio
Musician Pavel Arakelyan was released on November 22, after 15 days in jail. The next day, the "offender” said on the air of Euroradio that "in the detention facility they are doing everything possible for inmates to get out with COVID”.
On November 25, Leanid Paulyonak, who is another musician who served 15 days for a yard concert in Minsk, tested positive for COVID-19.
Euroradio talked to other people who recently spent time in jail to find out what anticovid measures are being applied in the detention facilities of Belarus.
"If a person runs temperature in the cell, they are not moved anywhere. They stay there with everyone"
Andrei was detained in Minsk on November 1, "when we went to Kurapaty". As a result, the protocol under Article 23.34, which is popular this season, was drawn up and Andrei received 15 days of administrative arrest.
"I have no official confirmation of a positive coronavirus test. But when I came out, the next day I had all the symptoms: lack of taste, smell, heaviness of the lungs," the guy tells Euroradio. "Six of my cellmates had the same symptoms, and one of them did the test which came positive. And for now I decided not to do it, I don't need sick leave. I have self-isolating at home."
Andrei spent eight days in the Akrestsin Street detention center and seven in Zhodzina.
"There are no anticovid measures at all in Akrestsin Street. Even when you are taken out for the morning cell toss, you are not forced to wear masks. In Zhodzina, you should always wear a mask when you come into contact with a guard. And there were no such requirements.
During the eight days that I was at Akrestsin Street, not a single cell was treated. They never took us out for a walk. But first we were "lucky": there were eight people in an eight-bed cell. And when next Sunday [November 8th. - Euroradio] they brought in a lot of people, we were transferred to a six-bed cell, where there were 11 of us".
How do they fight against COVID-19 in Zhodzina?
"Zhodzina takes masks seriously already at the level of the convoy dispatch from Akrestsin Street. The only problem is that three people are still put and transported in a single "glass". In general, in Zhodzina you should be wearing a mask when you leave the cell. If you don;t have it, you will be given one.
But also the premises have never been treated in principle. We were taken out for a walk, but only on Thursday and Sunday. In general, there are no problems with masks (at least in my cell), they are actively sent by volunteers. The guards, apparently, are also afraid of getting infected, so they are taking action.
In the next cell there was a man with a fever. They gave him paracetamol, but there was it, no isolation of the person. If a person has a temperature in the cell, they are not moved anywhere. They stay there with everyone."
Anti-covid measures in Zhodzina: "I'm gonna hit you on the liver!"
Another "offender" Pavel was released on November 21. During the 15 days of arrest, he managed to visit the Minsk, Zhodzina and Mahiliou detention facilities.
"At the Akrestsin Street, in Zhodzina, and in Mahiliou, when you get there, they drop an antiseptic into your hands. Basically, that's all. Also, in the Savetsky District Department of Internal Affairs [Minsk], before placing me in a "glass", they gave me a mask. With this disposable mask I traveled all the way to Mahiliou. In the detention centers, we were not given masks."
Even in Zhodzina? Another Euroradio source said that everything is different there!
"As far as I learned from people, things vary there. On some floors, some people are tortured, while others are not. Someone, for example, was forced to run in underpants along the corridors, while others were not. But if they were taken out somewhere - for a trial, for a walk - they asked me to put on a mask."
Oh, I remember the "anticovid measures" in Zhodzina! When we were just brought in, one person said that he had communicated with a coronavirus patient. To this, the "guard" said to him: "I'm gonna hit you on the liver!" That is, when they check people in, they ask for personal data and if there are any complaints. He stated his complaint, but after being offered to get hit on the liver, he changed his mind. They wrote: "No complaints".
"I also remembered an anticovid measure in Akrestsin Street: the jailed girls washed the corridor for cigarettes. And in Mahiliou, one person with a fever was even taken to the hospital by an ambulance. They broke the fever and brought him back."
How is your health after the arrest?
"Since the 20th [when I was still in Mahiliou - Euroradio] smells and taste are gone. I have normal temperature. Well, I have an unconfirmed covid. Honestly, I'm too lazy to go take the test. I'd rather sit at home in isolation."
Mahiliou: "Almost all the girls in my cell stopped feeling smells."
Emilia from Minsk was released on November 22, after 15 days in jail. During this time, the girl was also kept in Akrestsin Street, Zhodzina and Mahiliou. After her release, she has been waiting for the result of antibody tests, and she wrote in detail on Instagram about the fight against coronavirus in detention center:
"To begin with, there was a sick girl with me in the cell starting from Zhodzina. When they took her away, she told the riot police that she had corona, in the police department she told the cops that she had corona, then on Akrestsin Street she told the guards that and nobody cared, so during her 15 days she had been ill and even managed to recover.
I was not even surprised by the news that another girl who was jailed with us in Zhodzina and who came out a week before me had confirmed coronavirus. Sixteen people in an eight-bed cell, without hot water, with common utensils for all, without the ability to air the room...
In my presence, an aged woman was taken away by an ambulance because she coughed without interruption. It looked terrible. She was taken to the hospital only a week later.
On Akrestsin Street, the cells were to be disinfected; there were pieces of paper on the doors with the time and dates when it was carried out. Some old man and a woman, without going into the cells, wrote dates there and left.
In Mahiliou, on the third day, it suddenly turned out that almost all the girls in my cell stopped feeling smells. There was a fever, weakness. Some were silent, because they were afraid that they would be sent to the hospital and then they would have to jailed again. Some went to the local doctor and let him know, but they were sent back to their cell. "
In Baranavichy, a health worker said: "I can't hear a cough"
Alyaksei from Minsk was arrested on November 8. He was released on the 23rd. He spent 10 out of 15 days in Baranavichy.
"Upon arrival, the staff asked if everyone had masks. Those who were traveling with me had them. The cell was never treated, no one had any obvious symptoms of covid - such as loss of smell, long-term fever or shortness of breath. There were people with coughs, but when they complained about it, the health worker said: "I can't hear a cough". But after half an hour he did bring some pills.
When people complained of rising temperature (as perceived by the people themselves), the health worker checked the temperature with a contactless thermometer, but then said that the temperature was normal. They were generally very reluctant to respond to complaints, often ignored requests for an examination by a doctor, saying that the doctor would come the next day or is in another area. At some point we were denied the attention of a doctor for two days, the doctor appeared only on the third day.
Are there any rules in Baranavichy?
"The rules were the same as in other places [Zhodzina, Akrestsin Street jail]: when the cell was open, all prisoners were to put on masks and stand near the beds. When inmates were to leave the cell, the staff reminded them to wear masks. In masks, they were taken to the shower and for a walk. As far as I noticed, all the staff were wearing masks.
Also when we were brought from Akrestsin Street to Baranavichy, we were all taken to a cell for ten people, but according to rough estimates, there were 120 of us. People were standing very close to each other, the last ones to enter could barely get into the cell. After 15 minutes, people were taken out in twos at intervals of three to five minutes and taken to cells."
In Byaroza, the camera was treated every morning!
Of all our interviewees, the resident of Belaaziorsk, Dzyanis, who was detained for a protest in his hometown, was the luckiest He recently spent 15 days in the temporary detention center of the regional center - in Byaroza.
"The mask regime was strictly observed there. Employees were always wearing masks; prisoners without masks were not taken out of their cells either. Every morning during the "cell toss" they treat the camera with something (what - I don't know, unfortunately), then the floor is washed.
I was alone in the cell. But I heard a man complaining in a neighboring one, an ambulance was called for him. The doctors measured the temperature, asked questions and said, if it gets worse, they will come again."
These are the luxury conditions in the town of the Brest region. After all, it is placed less than 100 kilometers to the border with the European Union!