Physical distancing at public events is still crucial - epidemiologist

  • 2020-05-27
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Following the physical distancing rule when attending public events is still crucial, Jurijs Perevoscikovs, head of the Infectious Disease Risk Analysis and Prevention Department at the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said today on Latvian Television when asked about possibilities of organizing larger cultural or entertainment events. 

Asked if larger cultural or entertainment events could be allowed provided that people attend them wearing mandatory face masks, the epidemiologist said that in principle this could be possible. "Because we see that in several countries people attend mass events and they also use masks," Perevoscikovs said.

However, it is essential that everyone use them, he stressed. Citing his own experience, Perevoscikovs said that he had seen people not wearing mandatory face covers on public transport. 

At the same time, the expert said that it is necessary to look how the situation unfolds. If the Covid-19 incidence in Latvia continues to drop, the risk of contracting the disease will become negligible. The requirement to wear masks at public events could then be lifted, assuming that people still continue to follow the two meter distancing rule. Masks could then be used in cases where the contact is closer than the two meters and it lasts for a longer time.

The expert indicated that for the time being such events are not recommended. "Wearing a mask could help in some cases but distancing is still crucial in such situations," Perevoscikovs said. 

He said that from the epidemiological standpoint, it is important to follow the dynamic of untraceable cases. Last week there were seven such cases, down from nine cases a week before and 27 cases two weeks ago. Eventually, it turned out that nearly half of these people had caught the infection in foreign countries. 

Perevoscikovs therefore urged caution when reopening borders and increasing international air travel. 

He reminded that a two-week self-isolation requirement applies to all people arriving in Latvia from foreign countries, excluding Lithuania and Estonia. It is possible, however, that this requirement will soon be revised, he added.

In his words, epidemiologists in Europe are debating the matter and agree with the European Commission's position that travel restrictions could be relaxed among countries with similar infection rates. 

Describing the situation with the spread of Covid-19 in the world, Pereviscikovs noted that last week saw the highest number of new Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic as the disease continued to spread rapidly across the United States and Brazil.

Meanwhile, most EU member states recorded a drop in new cases, a trend that has been observed for several weeks already. Last week Europe recorded the lowest number of new cases since the beginning of March, the expert said.