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Smaller stores may be able to open from March in Latvia

At a joint meeting of the government and the Crisis Management Council on Tuesday, government representatives examined the proposal of the Economics Ministry to allow outlets with a single entrance and of no more than 300 square meters to resume face-to-face sales.

It is expected that small stores will be able to resume operations from March 1, subject to agreement on epidemiological measures that will need to be in place.

Henriks Danusēvičs, President of the Latvian Traders' Association, explained that allowing such stores to open again would see some 2,000-3,000 stores resume trading, and some 4,000-7,000 employees would be able to return to work.

The government on Tuesday charged the Economics Ministry with preparing more accurate estimates of precisely how many shops would be affected and to present the revised plans at a government meeting on Thursday for a final decision. 

The Ministry said in its presentation that EUR 84.8 million in support has been paid to the retail sector so far, and if the restrictions continue, the total costs could reach EUR 136 million by May, which will contribute to a weakened economy as well as further social tensions.

It also acknowledged that bans on the on-site sales of certain goods have not yielded real results in reducing store visits, as there is a widespread practice of people entering the store, choosing the product they like, leaving the store, ordering the product "remotely" via cellphone and immediately returning to the point of sale to collect the goods: in the process making two separate trips to the store instead of one. 

The Ministry therefore proposed deleting the provision listing the specific retail outlets that may be operated and the goods that may be traded. It is in favor of lifting the restrictions and allowing the entire retail sector to work.

Currently, all goods can be sold in supermarkets, provided 70% of goods available are food or hygiene products. A few specialist retailers such as bookstores, opticians and pet food shops can also operate.

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