Lithuania extends lockdown, reinstates travel curbs

Lithuania extends lockdown, reinstates travel curbs

The decision has been prompted by the approaching Easter holidays and the first detected cases of the South African variant

From 27 March until 6 April, restrictions on non-essential travel will be in effect all over Lithuania, and the current nationwide lockdown is being extended until 30 April, the government decided yesterday.

The decision followed an urgent government meeting where   Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė informed of two confirmed and several more suspected cases of the more vaccine-resistant South African variant detected in the country.   

Šimonytė noted that new coronavirus cases in Lithuania were on the rise, particularly in major cities. “The approaching [Easter] holiday period may lead to an increasing number of people moving between municipalities,which enhances the risks of contacts,” Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys added during the meeting, quoted by LRT.

Travel banned between all municipalities

Movement restrictions were introduced in mid-December 2020, but since 16 March, they have only applied to 16 municipalities with the worst epidemiological rates. Now the travel ban between municipalities is extended to the entire country. Exceptions include going to work, reaching an airport or station while embarking on a journey abroad, visiting a doctor and attending a funeral. As before, movement would be allowed between the so-called ‘inner-ring’ municipalities and large cities, for example, between Vilnius City and Vilnius District.

Lockdown extended until 30 April

Lockdown restrictions entail a ban on events, closure of schools and shuttering of catering facilities. Retailers with street access have been allowed to reopen, but they need to prevent customer congestion.

Under the lockdown, personal contacts outside one's household are also restricted. Two households are allowed to spend time together, but only outdoors, and can also form permanent ‘social bubbles’ if one of the households contains no more than one adult.

South African intruder

The South African coronavirus strain was detected last week in samples taken in the counties of Vilnius and Kaunas. Putting this in the wider perspective of neighbouring countries, the National Public Health Surveillance Laboratory (NVSPL) informed that Latvia confirmed its first case of the South African variant on 22 March, while Poland did it on 10 February 10 and Finland as early as on 19 December 2020.

Epidemiologist Gytis Dudas told LRT that research had shown a higher risk of re-infection after exposure to the South African strain for people who had already recovered from Covid-19 or had been inoculated with one of the existing vaccines. He added, however, that there was no evidence at this stage that the South African strain was more contagious or deadlier than the now prevalent UK variant.

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