Food retailers face big costs to comply with Covid requirements in Latvia

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Food retailers are faced with additional costs in order to meet all the requirements related to Covid-19. Merchants surveyed by Latvian Radio October 15 say that the two years of the pandemic have brought significant costs.

The Cabinet regulations provide that by 15 November, all employees in retail trade for whom the work obligation provides for contact with customers must be vaccinated. Until October 19, employers can use quick tests to test unvaccinated workers, but after that date, only laboratory tests that are significantly more expensive will be valid. Noris Krūzītis, executive director of the Latvian Food Traders Association, said that the costs of testing are already on the shoulders of entrepreneurs and are not small.

“These are those practical things [..] that can change the cost section. If only laboratory tests are to be valid from October 20, the test shall cost from EUR 25 and upwards. We have been working for two years in such a regime. And we'll probably work more. Basic cases concerning hygiene and safety requirements - mask, disinfectants. It has already become a daily expense,” Krūzītis said.

Head of communications for “Maxima Latvija” Liene Dupate-Ugule said that, in general, during the pandemic, the company has significant expenses associated with compliance with constraints and requirements.

“It's too early to judge, because we just started testing yesterday. We identify those colleagues who, according to job description, correspond to having direct contact with customers. It also depends on the test we choose and what is available on the market at all. [..] I will not be able to give an exact number, but it will certainly be thousands of euros, which is our additional costs and expenses. Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, we have introduced more than 40 different security measures – disinfectant stations, informative materials. In total these costs are more than a million euro, which is our own investment,” Dupate-Ugule said.

Alina Žižina, head of communications for the meat processing company Forevers, also acknowledged that the company is experiencing a cost burden associated with compliance with Covid-19 constraints and requirements. She emphasize that it is difficult to get tests in the required amounts.

Krūzītis, chair of the Latvian Food Traders Association, said that around 25 thousand people are employed in food retailing, and the problem with lack of workforce has always been there. The requirement for vaccination, he believes, will also influence the situation, but for the time being it is too early to predict the percentage of employees in food retail who will leave after November 15.

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