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Vilnius at night, Source: Vilnius by night

Lithuania heads towards lockdown

Lithuania heads towards lockdown

Restaurants, sports clubs, swimming pools, theatres and cinemas are set to close under Wednesday’s expected decision of the Cabinet of Ministers

On Wendesday the Lithuanian government will discuss the introduction of national lockdown, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis announced today. If this proposal is approved, the general quarantine will take effect from the end of the week.

“Alas, we wanted to avoid such measures, but first of all we listen to what doctors and experts say, and they have assured us that there is no other alternative,” S. Skvernelis said, quoted by LRT.

Local quarantine measures not enough

The Prime Minister has not been happy with local quarantine measures which include mandatory facemasks in all public places and management of customer flows by retail, catering and entertainment businesses. Back on Saturday he voiced his intention to propose to the government to tighten restrictions in municipalities falling into the red zone and to introduce tougher measures in municipalities in the yellow zone.

Lithuania introduced a traffic light system in October, grouping municipalities into red, yellow and green zones depending on the rate of local coronavirus infections. 21 municipalities, including the big cities of Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda, have been already red-zoned and quarantined. As of today, the red-colour zone has been further expanded to include 13 other municipalities: Prienai, Rietavas, Šalčininkai, Šiauliai City, Šilutė, Tauragė, Utena, Varėna, Kaunas District, Mažeikiai, Molėtai, Palanga, and Panevėžys District.

The Prime Minister said that the introduction of a general quarantine will entail closing all catering establishments, with just take-away service allowed. Another proposal to be discussed tomorrow would be to suspend the activities of sports clubs, swimming pools, and spas. Theatres and cinemas would also have to close.

As for schools and kindergartens, according to the Prime Minister, it is likely that a decision will be made that primary and preschool education will not be impeded, and high schools will be asked to conduct blended learning, with some students studying in the classroom, and some participating from home.

According to S. Skvernelis, the services of private medical institutions will not be affected by the restrictions. Efforts will also be made to increase the number of beds for COVID-19 patients. Changes are not foreseen for those arriving or returning to Lithuania from abroad.

Calls for increased testing

The head of the Lithuanian Center for Infectious Diseases and AIDS claims that the introduction of additional restrictions is not enough to manage the epidemiological situation. According to Professor Saulius Čaplinskas, it is important that there are more opportunities for testing for coronavirus. Over the past day, 897 new cases of coronavirus have been identified in Lithuania, and five people have died, the Ministry of Health said.

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