VILNIUS – The Lithuanian government on Wednesday extended the existing quarantine for another two weeks but relaxed some conditions.
"The quarantine regime is extended until April 27, 12 p.m..," Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga, who proposed the motion, told a government sitting today.
The government also allowed selling plants, seeds and fertilizers outdoors in specialized places. Up until now, any trading activity, excluding the sale of foods, essential goods, like fuel, has been barred.
Ministers also relaxed conditions for foreigners and decided to let them enter the country if their family members, i.e., parents, children, spouses, foster parents, are Lithuanian citizens. Up until now, foreigners have been barred from entering Lithuania, unless they have permits to live in the country, are diplomats or conduct international cargo.
This provision sparked a major debate as the government also mulled whether to allow foreigners who legally reside or work in Lithuania to reunite with their families during the quarantine, or apply the exception only to EU citizens. Eventually, ministers decided to return to the formulations including all foreigners and allowed their families to come to Lithuania.
"We cannot split families, period. This is what we need to write. How can we speak about "third countries" or "fifth countries"? If there's a family and somebody has the right to reside, then a spouse must have the possibility to reunite with their family," Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said.
Also on Wednesday, the government granted the possibility for people who have been allowed to come to Lithuanian by means of exception to enter the country via any border checkpoint upon coordination with the State Border Guard Service. Currently, entry is only possible via two border checkpoints on the Polish and Latvian borders.
The government also tightened control of drivers of commercial vehicles, if they are found to have fever or other coronavirus symptoms at border checkpoints. According to Veryga, the change "would allow to stop them at the border already". Now, commercial transport is allowed to enter Lithuania in bid to not to restrict the movement of goods.
The government also introduced more restrictions as ministers also changed the existing recommendation to wear facemasks to making it mandatory. The change will come into force on Friday.
Lithuania was first placed under quarantine on March 16 to slow the spread of coronavirus. Schools, kindergartens, universities were closed then, along the majority of shops and cafes.