Few measures have been enforced to curb coronavirus in Belarus – instead, people are being urged to drink vodka and go to saunas.
The country – specifically its president – has shrugged off concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, starkly illustrated on Sunday with the nation’s football matches continuing as normal.
As most countries enforce strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, fans continued to shuffle into football grounds as they would any other weekend.
Few social distancing measures appear to be in force, but spectators at some grounds did have their temperatures checked before being granted entry.
A small number of fans opted to wear face masks while huddled together in packed stands, but they were few and far between.
Belarusian football organisers have said they have no intention of postponing matches or cancelling the season – and the country’s leader has also shown that he is keen for sporting fixtures to continue.
President Alexander Lukashenko took part in an ice hockey match on Saturday – controversially declaring that sport “is the best anti-virus remedy”.
At the event, he told a reporter: “It’s better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees.”
When asked if there was anything that would stop him playing ice hockey, Mr Lukashenko replied: “It is possible, but why? I don’t understand. There are no viruses here.
“Did you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them too. This is a fridge.”
So far, 94 coronavirus cases have been reported in Belarus, a former Soviet nation that is home to 9.5 million people.
Mr Lukashenko, an avid ice hockey player who has been in power since 1994, has downplayed the need for social distancing – and Belarus is one of the only countries that has taken few measures to curb COVID-19’s spread.
In recent weeks, the president has suggested that Belarusians should drink 50ml of vodka a day to ward off the virus, but not at work – advice that is completely at odds with recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
He has also stated that regular trips to the sauna, working in the fields and having breakfast on time are the best ways to stay healthy – dismissing stricter measures imposed in neighbouring Russia and elsewhere as “frenzy and psychosis”.
Mr Lukashenko has also vowed that Belarus will still celebrate Victory Day on 9 May – a day when elderly veterans from World War Two parade through the streets. This is despite data that shows older people are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus in public spaces.
According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, the president said: “We are not cancelling anything. We will host all the events we have planned … Let God protect us from the coronavirus.”
In separate remarks on Friday, Mr Lukashenko said he “really liked” Donald Trump’s statements calling for US businesses to reopen and Americans to get back to work.
“There were many people urging me to close borders, enterprises and begin a nationwide quarantine. Back then I made a principled decision: we will implement a quarantine only when it is really needed,” he added.
Larry Kramer: Playwright, author and AIDS activist dies aged 84 | World News
Playwright and author Larry Kramer, who was known for his AIDS activism from early on in the epidemic, has died aged 84.
Kramer, who co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the early 1980s and later the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – or ACT UP movement – died in a New York hospital with pneumonia on Wednesday, his close friend and literary executor Will Schwalbe said.
His death was not said to be related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The award-winning writer was known for his 1985 play The Normal Heart, depicting a writer’s battle with society to raise awareness of AIDS – the immunodeficiency disease from the HIV virus that Kramer had himself.
Described as an “angry but compelling indictment of a society as well as a subculture for failing to respond adequately to the tragedy,” by AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara, the revival of the play in 2011 earned it several Tony awards.
A TV movie adaptation in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts, won an Emmy Award for best movie.
Kramer was also nominated for an Academy Award for writing the screen adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love, for which actress Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar.
The 84-year-old was perhaps best known for his lifetime of advocacy work as a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights and securing medical treatment for those with AIDS.
Larry Kramer’s passing is the saddest news. We have lost a giant of a man who stood up for gay rights like a warrior. His anger was needed at a time when gay men’s deaths to AIDS were being ignored by the American government… (1/3) pic.twitter.com/GRkAkNZrLg
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 27, 2020
Journalist Randy Shilts described an article Kramer had written for gay newspapers in the 1980s as “inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade” and credited it with “crystallizing the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community.”
In the 1983 article, Kramer had written about the epidemic: “Our continued existence as gay men upon the face of this earth is at stake…Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die.”
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in June 1935, Laurence David Kramer went on to study at Yale University and served in the army.
He later worked at the William Morris Agency and for Columbia Pictures.
In 2001, he had a liver transplant due to hepatitis B.
Kramer married his long-time partner, architect David Webster, in 2013, with the couple making their vows while Kramer was recovering from a bowel obstruction surgery in an intensive care unit at hospital.
They had planned the wedding before he was forced to have surgery, but they didn’t let the health emergency stop them.
Coronavirus: ‘She took her last breath in my arms’ – A personal tragedy as US COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000 | US News
In a matter of months, 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.
America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.
Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.
People have died in every state and from every walk of life.
Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.
Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.
“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”
Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.
“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”
Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.
“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.
“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”
She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”
Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.
She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.
Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.
Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.
Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.
“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”
After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.
“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”
Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.
“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”
As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.
So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.
But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.
Historic US space launch that would have been visible from UK aborted | Science & Tech News
An historic US space flight that would have been visible from the UK was aborted shortly before launch due to bad weather.
NASA announced the decision on safety grounds just minutes before lift-off on Wednesday – with the flight now not happening until at least the weekend.
The mission had been planned in conjunction with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX – and it would have been the first private involvement in taking astronauts to the International Space Station.
The US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron had forecast between a 40% and 60% chance of favourable conditions at the launch site in Florida.
Throughout the day weather conditions became worse, with a tropical storm initially threatening the launch before a tornado warning was issued.
NASA has stringent rules about the conditions in which the Falcon 9 can fly, and said one of these rules was being violated just minutes before the launch.
The earliest the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft could now launch is this weekend, with potential windows available on both Saturday and Sunday.
Falcon 9 rockets are not allowed to launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad and flight path.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain praised the SpaceX and NASA teams for “making the tough call” to postpone the mission.
“We all wanted a launch, but keeping our friends safe while we do it is a no-fail mission,” Ms McClain said, adding: “See you again Saturday.”
Although Donald Trump flew down to Florida to watch the launch, it being postponed means that the last president to be present at a NASA launch was Bill Clinton.
Barack Obama had flown to the Kennedy Space Centre for a space shuttle launch in 2010, but that launch was scrubbed due to a technical problem.
He didn’t return for the rescheduled launch a number of weeks later.
It isn’t clear whether Mr Trump will be back in Florida on Saturday.
Just a few miles away from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre there is a Space Mirror Memorial.
It commemorates the 15 NASA astronauts who lost their lives while in service to the agency during a spaceflight.
No names will be added to that memorial due to decisions made today.
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