VILNIUS – The Lithuanian government on Wednesday extended the coronavirus lockdown and the ban on non-essential travel between municipalities until March.
"I suggest that at this stage we make the decision that basically extends the date of the current restrictions, but (...) we'll return to these issues every week, or even several times a week," Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told the Cabinet.
The Cabinet approved the Health Ministry's proposal to extend the lockdown measures through February 28. These include inter-municipal movement restrictions, except for cases when people travel to their place of residence in another municipality, travel to other municipalities due to relatives' death, travel to work or for work-related reasons, to and from international travel places.
The Cabinet's will discuss the latest data and dynamics on Friday and the State Emergency Commission will do so next Monday, according to Simonyte.
"Then we'll look at whether we can go back to (discussing) some clearer dates and more concrete decisions on Wednesday," she said. "At this point, we're are doing what we must do to have some legal certainty," she said.
In its proposal to extend the lockdown for another month, the Health Ministry noted that although the number of COVID-19 infections has dropped since the measures were introduced, it still remains high.
"The number of cases in Lithuania is on the decline, but the rate of decline is slowing down compared to previous weeks," Health Minister Arunas Dulkys told the Cabinet.
The minister noted, however, that the measures have helped to get the situation in hospitals under control.
Mortality remains high, but is on a downward trend, too, he said.
Currently, around 7 percent of the Lithuanian population have COVID-19 immunity, having received at least one vaccine doze (around 2 percent) or having already had the virus over the past six months (some 5 percent), according to the Health Ministry.
Lithuania was placed under a second lockdown on November 7 amid spiking coronavirus infections. Cafes, bars and restaurants, gyms and cinemas were closed and schools switched to online learning as part of the measures.
In mid-December, the measures were tightened and extended until January 31.
Currently, many shops and sports and leisure venues are closed and services are restricted. People are banned from traveling between municipalities for non-essential reasons and gathering either at home and in public places.