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Lithuania extends lockdown until the end of March

Lithuania extends lockdown until the end of March

Facemasks are no longer mandatory outdoors, provided a 2 m distance is maintained

The volatile pandemic situation, aggravated by new, more infectious coronavirus variants coming into play, has prompted Lithuania's government to extend the national lockdown for another month, until the end of March. Nevertheless, under the government’s phased lockdown exit plan, some restrictions are lifted further.

Easing facemask, inner-city travel rules

From today, wearing facemasks will not be mandatory outdoors, as long as people can stay at least two-metres apart. Masks remain compulsory in indoor public places.

Moreover, people will now be able to travel freely between a city's metropolitan area and the suburban districts. The exemption applies to the six major cities in Lithuania – Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, and Alytus. Otherwise, travelling between municipalities for non-essential reasons (other than work, medical care, death of relatives or visiting a second home) remains forbidden until March 15. Earlier this month the government allowed non-grocery shops, beauty salons and churches to reopen. 

Mass vaccinations and testing key to relaxing restrictions

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė made it clear yesterday that a further easing of lockdown restrictions will also depend on the success of the nationwide vaccination programme. She urged all people in the vulnerable age group of over 70 to be given at least one jab by the end of March.

Alongside vaccinations, the government is planning to ramp up coronavirus testing in order to get a clearer picture of the pandemic situation in different municipalities. She explained that the decision to allow municipal administrations to determine the scope of testing has been ill-advised, and in some municipalities the situation now looks deceptively worse because only people with high risk of infection are being tested there.

“Probably from mid-March, [...] we could isolate municipalities where the situation is bad from others, rather than isolating all municipalities from each other,” Šimonytė said, quoted by public broadcaster LRT.

The risks of beach walking

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian police have suggested restricting access to the beaches by the Baltic Sea, saying too many people are walking on the beach and risking spreading the coronavirus. Increased traffic and cars congregating in one place have been reported in Klaipėda, Lithuania's only port and third largest city. According to the police, the intense traffic indicates that people may be breaking the ban on travelling between municipalities.

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