RIGA - Latvia will introduce a strict four-week lockdown, effective from this Thursday, October 21, until November 15, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) told journalists after a meeting of the Crisis Management Council on Monday.
The prime minister said that during the lockdown nearly all stores, entertainment venues and schools will be shut and services suspended. The Crisis Management Council's decision has yet to be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Karins said that the decision has been taken because the share of the vaccinated population is too small in Latvia. The prime minister admitted that, unlike in countries like Denmark and Ireland, the vaccination process in Latvia has not been as successful as planned.
Health Minister Daniels Pavluts (Development/For) indicated that all stores, except for those selling essential goods, will be closed and that only the most essential services will be available during the lockdown. Also, a stay at home order will be in effect from 20:00 till 5:00. The health minister noted that "people will be able to go to work and return home".
The State Chancellery explained that during the lockdown, people will be allowed to leave home only for well-founded purposes like work, visit to a doctor, etc.
Current school holidays will be extended by a week, but after that all students, except grades 1-3, will switch to distance learning. In-person learning is expected to resume on November 15.
All extracurricular classes and activities have also been cancelled until November 15. Students of higher and vocational education institutions will also be learning remotely.
Only employees working in critical professions will be allowed to keep working on site. Employees serving clients in person will need Covid-19 certificates.
Representatives of the State Chancellery admitted that Latvia's healthcare institutions are close to a breaking point and called on people to obey the strict lockdown rules in solidarity with the medics.
When the lockdown ends of November 15, in-person retail trade, services provision, education, as well as private and public events will resume in the "green mode", which means that all these things will only be available to fully vaccinated people and have obtained a Covid-19 certificate providing proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.
Latvia's Covid-19 incidence is currently the highest in the world. The number of new Covid-19 cases confirmed in Latvia last week, from October 11 to 17, increased by 48.8 percent from the week before, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) informed.
Latvia's cumulative two-week number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population has hit 1,266.4. which is twice as high as at the peak of the previous wave of infections.
The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients has doubled in 14 days. On Monday, hospitals in Latvia were providing treatment to 1,114 Covid-19 patients, including 133 severely ill patients. The number of Covid-19 deaths has grown 48 percent over the week and the occupancy of ICU beds is close to 100 percent.
The Health Ministry warned that if Covid-19 incidence keeps growing at the present rate, by the end of October Latvia will be recording 4,000 new cases per day and 275 hospital admissions. In such a scenario, the health system will be unable to provide the necessary assistance to everyone who needs it and the number of Covid-19 fatalities will surge.