RIGA - Considering the fresh rise in coronavirus infections in Europe, this is not the best time for easing Covid-19 restrictions in Latvia, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said at today's government meeting.
During a debate on the relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions, Karins voiced concerns about the plan to increase the number of people allowed to gather at indoor events from 500 to 1,000. "This is more a political intuition - seeing that it's bad everywhere else," the prime minister said.
Health Minister Ilze Vinkele (For Development/For) responded by saying that a gathering of 1,000 people will require compliance with certain rules, for instance, the event's plan will need approval from the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
Jurijs Perevoscikovs, Director of the CDC Department of Infectious Diseases and Prevention, explained that at large events, a potentially infected person could not spread the virus further than two meters.
The expert said that infection risks can be reduced by planning the event's layout in sectors and controlling the movement on people so that a potential infected person could not come into contact with all 1,000 people attending the event.
Perevoscikovs admitted that the risk of infection would be higher at nightclubs or discotheques where people get close to each other dancing and chatting. At an organized event, the number of people is not the most critical indicator, he said.
The epidemiologist said that in Latvia most Covid-19 cases are related to "foreign factors" and the cases are still being successfully traced and isolated. "Here, we do not have the factors that have been pushing up the infection rate in other countries," Perevoscikovs said.
Vinkele argued that the Covid-19 restrictions should be relaxed because already now people tend to comply with them less and less. "We must not foster spitefulness," the health minister said.
As reported, the Cabinet of Ministers today approved the Health Ministry's proposal to further ease Covid-19 restrictions from August 17, increasing the number of people allowed to gather indoors from 500 to 1,000 and relaxing requirements for catering establishments, as well as cultural, sports and religious venues.
According to the draft amendments approved to the government regulations on epidemiological safety measures for containing the spread of Covid-19, rules for outdoor events will remain unchanged, with up to 3,000 people permitted to assemble at open-air venues.
Under the new regulation, the maximum number of people allowed to sit at one table in cafes, bars and restaurants will be increased from four to eight, with no limits on the number of people allowed to sit at one table outside.
Catering establishments will be allowed to extend their working hours by two until 2:00 a.m. Cultural, sports and religious venues will also be allowed to stay open until 2:00 a.m.
The area catering establishments, shopping centers and cultural venues are required to provide for each visitor will be reduced from four square meters to three square meters per person. The requirement for caterers to place tables two meters apart remains in force.
The rule that the number of people allowed to gather at one particular venue must not exceed 50 percent of the venue's capacity has also been left in place.