Posted: 21.10.2021 09:57:00

Health is above politics

Co-operation in countering COVID-19 and the irrelevance of the selfishness of individual countries. What else was discussed during the meeting of the President of Belarus with the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge.

Hans Kluge

Belarus has one of the strongest health systems and this is recognised in the world and confirmed by the assessments of the World Health Organisation. WHO is aware of our strategy for responding to the pandemic and it is generally endorsed by the organisation. Aleksandr Lukashenko told Hans Kluge about tactical plans in the fight against COVID, “The next week in Belarus will be devoted to sorting out in detail each hospital, each infected person and taking additional measures, if necessary, to treat people from COVID.”

Valuable collaboration

Receiving the guest at the Palace of Independence, Aleksandr Lukashenko began the conversation with words of gratitude, “First of all, I want to thank you and the World Health Organisation, the WHO leadership for the election of Belarus as a member of the Executive Committee of the World Health Organisation in the current difficult, politicised 2021. 
This speaks of a certain independence and courage of the leadership of the World Health Organisation.”
The Head of State stressed, “As the Healthcare Minister reported to me, we have never had any problems with the WHO. You have always shared your knowledge, advised not only in matters of treating people, but also in the acquisition of certain equipment. In general, you provided all-round support and assistance. We see this during the pandemic as well. We really appreciate it.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the current situation in the world is characterised by an increase in the incidence of COVID. This problem is objectively relevant for our region as well, “As far as I understand, the Indian strain is increasing. We designated it as ‘Delta’, so as not to offend anyone... Countries are experiencing a very serious rise around Belarus, including a certain rise in Belarus itself. We have already reached the peak that we had before.”
The President drew attention to the fact that Minsk largely shares the WHO policy, 
“I absolutely support the World Health Organisation, primarily the leadership of WHO, in the fact that today you cannot be selfish and individualistic.
I refer to the countries that are trying to close down, announce lockdowns, which — having medicines — do not always supply them to the market on time and in the right amount. Having the ability to produce personal protective equipment is not always shared with other countries, especially vaccination. 
Vaccines must be made available to all mankind. 
This is an international disease, and if a country thinks to isolate itself and try its luck in this regard, nothing will come of it. Together, all 7.5 billion people must overcome this disease.”
The Head of State also expressed gratitude to WHO for co-operation in various areas, “In the treatment of not only COVID, but also other diseases. We must not forget that our people are sick, and to a much greater extent for other diseases than the current pandemic. And here we get all kinds of support from your organisation.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko asked to convey the warmest words of gratitude to the WHO Director General and its other leaders, “For the tremendous support that you provide to the whole world, including Belarus.”

Decent results

Hans Kluge thanked the President for the opportunity to meet, “For me, this is a very important moment. The main goal for me is to raise our relations to a qualitatively new level.”
The guest noted, “I agree with you that this is a moment of opportunity, because now the healthcare system of Belarus is included in the WHO Executive Committee and can affect the global structure of the organisation as a whole. As you rightly pointed out, health should be above politics. This is my main goal, which I practice in my work.”
In a conversation with the Belarusian leader, Hans Kluge said that during his visit he signed another co-operation plan for 2022-2023 with the Healthcare Ministry of our country. Later, in conversation with reporters, he noted that the co-operation plan includes issues of coverage of the population with medical services, 
“Belarus shows good results in this area. Mainly due to the fact that it has preserved the healthcare base from the times of the USSR and filled it with new high-quality content.”
The parties also intend to continue interaction to reduce the cost of medicines and digitalise medical services.
Hans Kluge especially highlighted the need to expand vaccination in a pandemic to ensure public access to various vaccines. The guest shares the position of the Belarusian leader that there should be no compulsory vaccination, “However, additional incentives should be implemented urging people to get vaccinated. It is necessary to ensure a variety of available vaccines for the population, this will become a factor of additional trust on the part of people.”
Given the constant mutation of the virus, Hans Kluge expects Belarus to join the COVAX programme [a global initiative aimed at ensuring equal access to vaccines against COVID-19].
“It is important to increase production volumes. And here Belarus has a fairly high potential,” he stressed.
At the same time, the WHO representative drew attention to the fact that 9 out of 10 people in the region die not from viral, but from chronic diseases, and in this area it is also necessary to continue work, “Such diseases as tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis C also remain on the agenda. Belarus was among the first to receive a certificate confirming the exclusion of cases of HIV transmission from mother to child and congenital syphilis. In this regard, I would like to congratulate you on such an outstanding result.”


Dmitry Pinevich, Healthcare Minister of Belarus:
We already see, if not a surge, then at least an increase in the number of vaccinated people. We’re looking more at those who were vaccinated with the first component, in fact 2.5 million are already vaccinated. And the numbers of those who have gone through the full vaccination cycle are increasing at a good pace. The only thing, of course, I express my regret that, as always, we have it a little later than it should have been. But better late than never...
Now the cost of vaccines on the market in the same COVAX system is decreasing. Perhaps we can consider in the future the expansion of this spectrum of vaccines in terms of cost parameters.

By Dmitry Kryat, Yevgeny Kononovich, Polina Konoga
Photo by Yury Mozolevsky