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Nation's President Mocks Virus 'Psychosis,' Soccer Goes On

Belarus' Premier League is carrying on as if there's no pandemic, and it's gaining fans
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2020 7:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's the "last league standing," per the Guardian, and that's no exaggeration. Like pro sports throughout much of the globe, professional soccer is virtually canceled across the EU due to the coronavirus—except for the Belarusian Premier League, which has bucked what other neighboring countries are doing and announced it has no plans to nix any matches, let alone the entire season. And although the teams in the league are barely known to soccer fans, the fact that they're now giving people live games to watch has suddenly earned them newfound popularity, as well as broadcasting contracts with networks in 10 countries, including in Russia and Israel. Per the AP, fans entering stadiums in Belarus to watch matches are offered hand sanitizer, and medics are around to monitor temperatures, according to a soccer federation rep there.

Belarus has so far registered around 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but it hasn't done much in terms of social distancing or trying to otherwise contain the virus. In fact, President Alexander Lukashenko, who played ice hockey in a packed stadium in Minsk over the weekend, has called fears about the virus a "psychosis" and advised people to instead hit the sauna and drink vodka, the Washington Post reported last week. Grocery stores, restaurants, bars, churches, and other businesses remain open throughout Belarus. "It's better to die standing than to live on your knees," Lukashenko said after his weekend hockey game, during which he also noted he didn't see any viruses "flying around" the stadium, per CNN. "Let God protect us from the coronavirus," he added to state media, via the Mirror. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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