Russians desperate for a summer holiday are exploiting a loophole that enables them to evade lockdown restrictions at home in search of Mediterranean beaches abroad.
Travellers keen for a summer sun fix are reportedly taking advantage of the soft border between Russia and Belarus to the east of the country.
According to Traveller.com, Russians are making the seven-hour drive to Minsk, the Belarus capital, where minimal checks are in place.
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Upon arrival, Russians are making use of the country’s more relaxed coronavirus restrictions and travelling freely to elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
The landlocked nation of Belarus does not have any Covid-19-related restrictions in place, with President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko stating in March: “There are no viruses here. Do you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them either.”
Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recorded nearly 75,000 cases of the virus to date, along with 464 deaths, in the country of almost 9.5 million.
“Since the quarantine, Minsk has become a Casablanca, the main crossroads for Russians who want to leave the country,” said Maxim Valetskiy, a Russian businessman with an Israeli passport and family in London, who is reported to have used the detour four times since the Kremlin stopped foreign travel at the end of March.
Domestic travel throughout Russia is allowed, despite residents being advised to stay home this summer, but many are keen to venture further afield to more developed tourists hotspots
“I want to go on holiday where I choose, and that’s certainly not on the Black Sea in Russia,” Elena Venediktova, a 44-year-old real estate broker in Moscow, who has booked a two-week holiday via Belarus in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurgada from 1 August, told Traveller.com.
“Europe may be off limits but there are lots of other seaside destinations. You just have to make a slight effort,” she said.
Russia is suffering the fourth-highest infection rate in the world, despite the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions and Vladimir Putin’s statement that Russians have “forced the epidemic to recede”.
To date, the WHO has recorded 734,000 cases of Covid-19 in the country and almost 11,500 deaths.
Chief infectious-disease specialist of the Orlovskaya region, Victoria Adonyeva, has questioned national statistics, adding that her hospital and others in the city of Oryol had no free beds.
“The numbers are going up. There’s no plateau,” she said.
“What kind of stabilisation, what kind of lifting of restrictions can we talk about?”
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