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State of emergency in Latvia: needed or not?

Although Prime Minister Krisjānis Kariņš (New Unity) is convinced that a state of emergency should be announced on Friday, the government's views differ, Latvian Television reported November 4.

During a state of emergency, the government has far more rights to limit the activities of the population. For example, in the spring, during the emergency state, a government decision was sufficient to allow administrative penalties for the failure to wear masks in public transport, but the introduction of penalties now required amendments to the law and a number of votes in the Saeima.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš told Latvian Television that he believed a state of emergency was needed. This would allow for a more rapid introduction of measures to limit people's gathering:

“My point, my argument to my colleagues is that we have to take bigger steps because this virus doesn't wait.

This virus is rapidly spreading. This virus uses any possibility where people are in contact and gathering. So our gradualism is not enough for us.”

Other members of the government, however, aren't convinced. The Minister for Health, Ilze Viņķele, said that stricter restrictions would have to be introduced, but the need for a state of emergency would have to be assessed by lawyers.

Economics Minister Jānis Vitenbergs said the announcement of an emergency would only be supported if there were sufficient support measures for entrepreneurs and employees. According to Vitenbergs, the downtime benefits should be restored, as well as more favorable conditions for sick leaves.

"Our offer will be that [the sick leave] is covered already from the first day, both for COVID-19 patients and those who have been associated with them, and people who have the first symptoms of the disease so they don't go to work.

One is worried about losing their job, goes to work, even though there are some problems, " the minister said.

On Thursday, the working team of Finance Minister Jānis Reirs  will discuss support for the economy during the emergency. Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns, on the other hand, believes that the virus can be stopped without an emergency. In his opinion, the main thing is to convince people to comply with existing restrictions.

"We are concerned that compliance with these limits must be achieved as quickly as possible," Bordāns said.

Agriculture Minister Kaspars Gerhards pointed out that it would be possible to discuss the state of emergency at a time when concrete proposals were made. Meanwhile, Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis said the decision would depend on medical reports Friday.

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