Policy responses for Belarus - HSRM


Policy responses for Belarus

1.3 Isolation and quarantine

In Belarus, measures on social distancing were introduced quite early, again, long before the first patient with COVID-19 was identified on 27 February 2020. These measures started from mid-January 2020 and consisted of mandatory quarantine measures for all students and workers coming from the People’s Republic of China. After identification of the first case, quarantine measures were implemented for confirmed cases and their close contacts regardless of the presence of symptoms. All suspected cases underwent testing and were advised to self-isolate until confirmation of a negative test result. 

Distant learning and working were organized for those educational institutions where confirmed cases were identified. Elderly homes, prisons and detention centres were closed to visitors. Food delivery for elderly has been organized by the Belarusian Red Cross / Red Crescent Society and National Youth Union. On 21 May, every deputy was ordered to take control of the care homes for elderly and disabled in their constituency. Care homes were moved to a complete isolation regime, with staff working on rotas, daily medical monitoring, and use of personal protective equipment. At the primary care level, remote drug prescription and medical consultations were organized to reduce the number of visits to medical facilities; all routine medical check-ups were temporarilyhave been postponed.

On 25 March 2020, mandatory measures on self-isolation were introduced by the Government concerning people coming from countries affected by COVID-19 but who remained asymptomatic. Those people should stay at home and cannot cross the border again for the period of 14 days. There are some exclusions for diplomats, members of official delegations, truck drivers, foreigners returning to their home countries through Belarus. Truck drivers were required to transit using the shortest possible route and leave Belarus within 24 hours, and only stop for rest and fuel at special places assigned by the Council of Ministers.

On 8 April 2020, mandatory measures on self-isolation were broadened and strengthened quite substantially and were reinforced by the introduction of administrative and criminal liability for breaching these restrictive measures, especially if other persons were infected or if death occurs as a result of infection. The Government order covered citizens, non-citizens of the Republic of Belarus, and foreigners, and introduced mandatory self-isolation for three groups of people: 1) those infected with COVID-19; 2) those of first-level contact even if they showed no symptoms of coronavirus infection, for the period of two-weeks from the day of the last contact; 3) those of second-level contact, in case of appearance of symptoms attributable to COVID-19, for the period of presence of those symptoms. Paid sick leaves certificates were supposed to be issued by general practitioners after home visits, however, it was not clear what measures would be put in place for those living in the same households with first- and second-level contacts. People in self-isolation were only allowed to leave home to go to the nearest grocery shop or pharmacy, or to bring out household waste. Wearing masks while leaving home was obligatory. In case of deteriorating of health condition, the general practitioner or ambulance should be called. 

On 10 April, the Ministry of Health revised the conditions for monitoring people who are considered first-level contacts and they can now remain in self-isolation at home. The conditions were revised because some citizens did not consent to hospitalization for 14 days as they met all the conditions for self-isolation at home. Now, first-level contacts will be at home on self-isolation under the supervision of a local therapist. Testing of first-level contacts will be carried out on the first, seventh, and 12-13 day.

In May, The Ministry of Health established a procedure for extending and reducing the length of stay of citizens in self-isolation (Ministerial Decree No. 49, 8 May 2020). The terms of self-isolation for residents are extended if they test positive in a repeated laboratory test, or a first-level contact does. This also applies to cases where, on the last day of the established period of self-isolation, the testing of a first-level contact has not been completed. The required hospitalization was reduced to 7 days.

The Ministry of Health Resolution No. 81 of 2 October 2020 further clarifies self-isolation procedures – Level 1 contacts include people who have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 infection 4 days before and 10 days after they show symptoms of the disease. These are also people who have been in contact with an asymptomatic carrier 4 days before and 10 days after the date of swabbing for testing. Second-level contacts include children under the age of 10 attending kindergarten or school, if they had possible contact with a person with COVID-19 within 4 days before and 10 days after the onset of symptoms. The same applies to cases where children communicated with an asymptomatic carrier. Close contact is considered to be contact for at least 15 minutes at a distance of less than 1 m without a mask. Possible contact is at a distance of 1 m to 2 m without a mask.

As of 8 July, 12 countries have been excluded from the list of countries where incoming travelers are required to undergo 14 days of quarantine: Algeria, Andorra, Vietnam, Cyprus, Cuba, Lebanon, Mauritius, Malaysia, New Zealand, San Marino, Thailand and Tunisia. The Russian Federation joined this list as of 15 July.