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Vilnius 2020 Christmas tree darkened as part of Hour of Silence and Solidarity campaign , Source: Vilnius City Municipality

Lithuania tightens lockdown restrictions

Lithuania tightens lockdown restrictions

PM has attributed the spike of infections to shopping sprees right before the quarantine

In an attempt to curb coronavirus transmission, the Lithuanian government decided Wednesday evening to tighten quarantine restrictions further, targeting small vehicles where distancing is next to impossible. More than two persons cannot travel in the same car, unless they are from the same household. Exception from the two-person limit is allowed in case of a driver who provides transport services.

The government also banned driving lessons and exams for the duration of the lockdown, which came into force on 16 December and would last until 31 January. As part of the restrictions, non-essential travel between municipalities was prohibited until 3 January to prevent mixing of relatives and friends during the Christmas and New Year holidays. To enforce the ban, the police set up checkpoints across the country.

Transmission out of control?

In spite of the lockdown, the epidemiologic situation in Lithuania remains serious and according to some experts, out of control. Last week the New York Times labelled Lithuania as “the worst coronavirus-affected country in the world”, taking into account the country’s seven-day coronavirus infection rate. On Wendesday, Lithuania broke another 24-hour record, reporting 3 737 new coronavirus cases and 50 deaths.  

The record number of new Covid-19 cases is a consequence of sweeping shopping sprees right before the lockdown, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė told members of parliament on Wednesday. Given the coronavirus incubation period, we have to give measures time to yield results, she said, explaining that after December 16 people’s movement subsided significantly and cases would eventually plateau. 

Vaccinations start on Sunday

Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys announced during the cabinet meeting that vaccination against Covid-19 will begin in five hospitals simultaneously on Sunday, 27 December. Medical workers would be the first in line to receive the jabs. Staff and residents of care institutions will come next, and, according to the vaccination schedule, are expected to be inoculated in January–February.

Joining the "Hour of Silence and Solidarity" campaign, Vilnius and other cities turned off festive decorations for an hour to honour the many losses caused by the pandemic in Lithuania.

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