As Lithuania is reporting record-breaking daily increases in coronavirus infections, conspiracy theorists are trying to prove the pandemic is not real by filming supposedly empty hospital wards.
A man, identifying himself as Tomas, posted photos on social media last Saturday, describing what he said were empty rooms at the Santara Clinic in Vilnius, one of the country's several designated hospitals treating coronavirus patients.
Tomas claimed to have spent an hour outside the hospital and counted no more than three patients in ground-floor rooms.
“Covid patients must be visiting their family graves,” Tomas concluded.
The following day, an entire group turned up at Klaipėda Hospital for Infectious Diseases and started filming doctors and patients through the windows. The live video was streamed on Facebook. Similar videos were made outside hospitals in Šiauliai and Telšiai, Delfi.lt reported.
In the videos, people were seen harassing hospital workers, asking them whether rooms are really filled with coronavirus patients.
Staff at Plungė Hospital, in western Lithuania, even called the police when they were assaulted by a similar party. One participant, who refused to wear a facemask, was taken to a local police station, according to Delfi.lt.
During a press conference on Tuesday, a doctor from the Santara Clinics compared the conspiracy theorists with video cameras to voyeurs in public beaches.
“These videos are disgusting, reminds me of voyeurs at the beach in Palanga [Lithuania's main coastal resort town],” Linas Svetikas, the head of the Emergency Department at the hospital's Centre for Infectious Diseases, told reporters.
“It would be great if members of the public disciplined those characters with cameras or called the police,” he added.
According to Svetikas, his hospital is admitting twice as many coronavirus patients than last summer, about 40 a day.
According to him, the problem Lithuanian hospitals are facing is not so much running out of beds – which “the [Health] Ministry can buy and bring to us” at a day's notice – but of doctors and nurses to take care of the coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile Santara Clinic spokeswoman Jolanta Normantienė told LRT.lt that windows of coronavirus rooms were facing the hospital's inner courtyard, while videos circulating on social media usually show random parts of the building.
“Filming windows and approaching hospital departments without introducing yourself and giving abstract questions is not evidence that there are no patients in the hospital,” she said.
There are 12,765 active coronavirus cases in Lithuania, the Health Ministry reported on Wednesday, and 676 of them are being treated in hospitals, including 57 in intensive care.
Last week, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said that Lithuania's hospitals had upped the number of beds reserved for coronavirus patients from about 400 to 663.