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Saeima permits catering with outdoor seating; government disagrees

On April 29 the Saeima supported amendments to the Covid-19 infection spread management law, which provides for the resumption of public catering on outdoor terraces from next week, despite the government deciding against lifting any such restrictions.

On Thursday, the Saeima Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee supported proposals prepared by the Ministry of Economy (EM) and backed by the catering industry, which provides for the resumption of outdoor catering.

It was suggested that four persons from two households could be present at an outdoor table, two meters between the tables would be provided, and more extensive disinfection of surfaces and tableware would also be ensured.

The amendments to the Law provide that from May 7,  public catering services will be allowed outdoors while observing the epidemiological safety requirements specified by the Cabinet for public catering services. However, the Cabinet (MK), which decided on Tuesday not to lift any restrictions yet, can decide to suspend these services for a specified period.

90 deputies voted for the proposal to resume catering in outdoor terraces, and one voted against.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said that “the Saeima is starting to go its own individual path”, which could have unexpected consequences. He said he would find out what the legal consequences were.

Kariņš said that these Saeima decisions had not been agreed with by the government. According to Kariņš, this action "puts us in unknown waters". He also said that the Saeima "lives in its own information space" so they decide on lifting restrictions, in contrary to the government agreeing on Tuesday that easing restrictions is not possible at the moment, as the incidence of Covid-19 is increasing again.

Ilmars Dūrītis, parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Health, is in two minds about this decision. Although gathering in fresh air is not the greatest risk for spreading the disease, decisions on relaxing or strengthening restrictions should be taken by a government which sees the situation more closely and 'operationally' than the Saeima, Dūrītis said.

“There was a reasoning that people meet outside and order food in the restaurant as if to take away, but then go in the open and enjoy food or drink without observing anything. (..) To some extent, it will be more controlled on the terraces and more transparent and visible. This argument can be accepted, but in general, regarding the reduction of restrictions or any changes to restrictions, I think it is the primary task of the government and politically the Saeima should probably not intervene much,” said Dūrītis.

The chair of the Latvian Restaurant Association, Jānis Jenzis, was satisfied with the Saeima's decision and said that in the near future, caterers will agree on a memorandum to ensure that restaurants are very responsible when serving customers on the terraces.

 

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