Sports centers, shopping malls to close at weekends in Latvia

Latvia's government on March 24 announced some further measures designed to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Sports centers, gyms and sport halls will be shut down completely, and many retail stores will be forced to close at weekends, with exceptions made for goods deemed essential to daily life.

Consequently food and homeware stores, garden centers, pharmacies, pet stores and opticians will be allowed to open at weekends but luxury goods stores, clothes stores and other retail outlets will shut. The aim is to reduce the numbers of people coming into contact with each other.

"Think not just about yourself but about society as a whole," said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, stressing that all future government decisions would be based not on political dogma but upon "the epidemiological situation in the country", advice from medical experts and common sense. 

The government meeting was notable for being the first "virtual" cabinet meeting in Latvian history, with ministers dialling in via online telephony and chat services.

It was followed up by another first - an online press conference which saw Health Minister Ilze Viņķele thanking society for its solidarity and patriotism in complying with the anti-coronavirus rules, and Finance Minister Jānis Reirs outlining the budget manipulations necessary to deal with the current crisis by accessing funds usually held in reserve.

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs described the virtual cabinet meeting as "good and effective".




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