Belarusian leader proposes 'tractor' therapy for virus

Lukashenko, a former collective farm director, likes to emphasise his connection to the land (AFP Photo/VIKTOR DRACHEV)

Moscow (AFP) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday encouraged citizens to work in the countryside and drive tractors as a way to overcome the coronavirus epidemic.

The former collective farm director, who likes to emphasise his connection to the land and rural residents, told officials at a televised meeting that "there shouldn't be any panic" over the virus.

"You just have to work, especially now, in a village", he said as the former Soviet country that borders Russia and Poland prepares to sow crops.

"It's nice watching television: people are working in tractors, no one is talking about the virus," Lukashenko said.

"There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone," he added.

Belarus is famed in the former Soviet Union for its tractor production, with the Minsk tractor plant remaining a regional leader.

The country of nine million has so far reported 36 cases of the coronavirus.

Lukashenko is not the only post-Soviet leader to put a personal spin on anti-viral advice.

In Central Asia, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on Friday recommended inhaling smoke from a burning desert-region plant called Peganuma harmala, also known as African Rue, Turkmenistan Today state news agency reported.

The isolated authoritarian state has not reported any cases of coronavirus. Russia has sent it testing kits.