Belarus is not managing the coronavirus epidemic well and Lithuania considers restricting flights to the neighbouring country, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said.
“We still have regular flights [between Lithuania and Belarus], but [...] we have more and more doubts whether we should maintain them, as the virus management situation in Belarus seems to be not very good, to say the least” the minister told the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
UPDATE: Vilnius and Minsk in war of words over coronavirus handling
While flights via Minsk are some of the last routes for Lithuanians to return home, safety must also be taken into the balance, according to Linkevičius.
The belarusian state-owned airline Belavia continues to operate regular flights from Minsk to Vilnius.
Belarus remains the only country in the region not to have closed its border due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has not canceled top-league football games either, in contrast to most other countries in the world.
“The way they are dealing with the crisis is really very strange, and the whole world is wondering,” Linkevičius said.
Officials cannot be trusted
One cannot trust official Belarusian information about the coronavirus, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said, adding that the situation in the neighbouring country may be worse than official data suggest.
“We cannot trust that information we officially receive from Belarus as I see that the Belarusian leader is acting with a bit of bravado when assessing the situation,” the president told journalists outside the Health Ministry on Wednesday morning.
“It's quite possible that the true figures are much worse as we know about certain outbreaks in the Belarusian territory and registered deaths,” he said.
He said he agreed with the foreign minister that Lithuania should restrict contacts with the country.
“I believe Mr. Linkevičius' comment is absolutely timely, and if that risk is really tangible, we need to restrict all contact with the country which is too relaxed at the moment towards the coronavirus outbreak and could face painful consequences,” Nausėda said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Tuesday the first coronavirus death in his country.
152 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Belarus as of Monday.