RIGA - The Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday endorsed the Economics Ministry's proposal to allow small shops with a floor space of up to 300 square meters to reopen as of next week, but the government will take the final decision on the proposal at its next meeting this Thursday.
According to the ministry's plan, shops with a separate entrance and a floor space of up to 300 square meters would be allowed to sell the full range of goods as of next Monday, March 1.
Henriks Danusevics, president of the Latvian Merchants' Association, said that this would allow reopening between 2,000 and 3,000 shops, which employ 4,000 to 7,000 people. Most of such shops operate outside of Riga, he added.
Although the Health Ministry objected to easing restrictions on retail trade, several other ministers backed the Economics Ministry's proposal. Taking this into consideration, Health Minister Daniels Pavluts (For Development/For) indicated that this would be the least risky of the options proposed by the Economics Ministry for the resumption of retail trade.
According to the Economics Ministry, there are 12,723 retail companies in Latvia that employ a total of 87,392 people. At the moment, the retail trade industry receives 20 percent of the total state support provided during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Economics Ministry offered the government to pick one solution for the retail industry's further operations - to carry on with the current restrictions, in which case support for the industry may amount to EUR 136 million by end-May, or to allow retailers to resume operations in Covid-19 safe environment.
The Economics Ministry had come up with five different options for the resumption of retail trade during the state of emergency, including a proposal to lift all restrictions on retail trade or to restrict trade at weekends.
Option A envisages allowing all retailers to operate on-site, without restricting the range of goods they sale, while introducing the concept of Covid safe retail environment.
Option B envisages maintaining the current retail restrictions, but outlets with an area of up to 300 square meters can sell all product ranges, and small stores shops outside shopping centers may reopen.
Option C maintains the existing retail restrictions, and additionally stipulates that outlets with an individual entrance and up to 300 square meters in area may sell all product ranges, and that small stores outside shopping centers may reopen.
Option D maintains the existing retail restrictions, and additionally stipulates that stores with an individual entrance may sell all groups of goods.
Finally, option E stipulates that the current restrictions would henceforth only apply to weekends and holidays, and it also recommends that restrictions on street vending be lifted.
The Economics Ministry supports option A, which envisages lifting restrictions on the ranges of goods and products available at stores.