Lithuanian ruling bloc calls on politicians not to cause panic, cancels party events

  • 2020-02-28
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuania's ruling coalition urged politicians to stay calm and cancelled party events after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the country on Friday.

The ruling bloc discarded the idea of signing a formal agreement among political parties and instead called on politicians to respect "a verbal gentlemen's agreement" not to cause panic.  

"We have a unique opportunity to mobilize in the face of the threat, the virus. No populist moves should be made," Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis told reporters after Friday's meeting of the ruling coalition's council.

"Only by standing together and staying calm, not by panicking, can we manage the situation in a calm way," he said. "I don't think any political force will want to speculate in the situation."  

"If there's a gentleman's agreement and it's respected, we don't necessarily need a written one," the prime minister said. 

"The situation is completely under control today, but if the virus spreads, I think there'll be glitches, too, and we need to close ranks and not to panic, and, most importantly, let the services that do their work," he added. 

Ramunas Karbauskis, the leader of the Farmers and Greens Union, said after the council's meeting that they agreed that politicians should avoid commenting on specific situations and circumstances.

"We have too little information and aren't competent enough" to comment, he said.

Karbauskis dismissed as "lies" statements "by representatives of some opposition parties that the state and health professionals aren't prepared" to deal with a coronavirus outbreak. 

He also said that the Farmers and Greens Union was cancelling party events "so as not to cause additional risks". 

Karbauskis earlier this week raised the idea of political parties signing an agreement to commit themselves "not to spread panic and misinformation" and "not to exploit the situation for one's political goals" in the run-up to next fall's parliamentary election.  

Lithuania last night confirmed its first coronavirus infection in a 39-year-old woman who returned from northern Italy earlier this week. She is isolated in a hospital in Lithuania's northern city of Siauliai.  

More than 83,000 cases of the coronavirus have been registered and over 2,800 people have died worldwide.