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Air view of winter Vilnius, Source: Saulius Žiūra/Go Vilnius

Lithuania phases out corona restrictions

Lithuania phases out corona restrictions

The country’s top public health official has been dismissed over poor handling of the pandemic

Lithuania is seeing the week off with two pieces of news that are making ripples: the government has drafted a plan for a phased-out lifting of the 2-month lockdown and fired the country’s public health helmsman over poor navigation of the pandemic response.

Out of sync

Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys discharged Robertas Petraitis, director of Lithuania's National Public Health Centre (NVSC), following a negative assessment of his performance in 2020, reports BNS. The NVSC has been repeatedly criticised for unreliable coronavirus statistics and failure to carry out timely epidemiological studies. Petraitis plans to appeal his dismissal, dubbing it a political decision motivated by his persistent raising of questions “about systemic problems in the healthcare system, about the integrity of information systems.”

Non-grocery shops, beauty salons, churches reopen

From Monday, small non-essential shops and services will be allowed to resume operation under the government lockdown exit plan. The aim, according to the authorities, is to “provide small and medium sized businesses with a level playing field”. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė warned the public to comply with the rules and observe all safety precautions as the pandemic situation in Lithuania is fragile. The country’s 14-day coronavirus infection rate currently stands at 288 per 100 000 people and the death toll at 3 038.

Only shops that have a floor space of up to 300 square metres and “direct access from the street or a separate entrance used only by the shop's customers” may reopen. Retailers, hairdressers, beauticians and other service providers will have to ensure at least 20 sq m of floor space per customer or serve only one customer at a time.

Street vendors will be allowed to sell non-food products. The current ban on travel between municipalities and gatherings remains in force.

Most Roman Catholic churches in Lithuania will also reopen for public worship next Wednesday with stringent safety measures in place. Religious establishments in several municipalities with the highest infection rate will not resume public services for now.

Vilnius school resumes classwork after preventive testing

Under a municipal pilot project backed by Lithuania's government, one primary school in Vilnius will resume classwork from February 22, following extensive coronavirus testing of its staff and pupils' families, reports ERR. Vilnius authorities will carry out preventive tests of staff at Duke Gediminas Progymnasium as well as the families of its pupils (a total of 300 households) over two selected weeks in February and March.

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