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Coronavirus situation in Baltic states deepens with deaths and social transmission

The situation with regard to COVID-19 coronavirus became even more serious in the Baltic states March 25 with the first death reported in Estonia, several deaths reported in Lithuania and the first recorded case of social transmission of the disease in Latvia.

In Estonia, ERR News reports the first death as a direct result of the disease has been recorded. 

"A patient infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) died on Wednesday afternoon at West Tallinn Central Hospital. This is the first death related to the COVID-19 virus in Estonia... The patient was an 83-year-old woman who was hospitalized at West Tallinn Central Hospital on March 20. She had underlying health issues and suffered from chronic cardiovascular problems," said ERR News.

In Lithuania the death toll rose by three in just 24 hours, reports LRT English. The first death in Lithuania was recorded on March 21, and until now no others had been reported, bringing the death toll to four.

In addition, a staff member at the Office of the Seimas [Lithuanian parliament] has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the parliament said on Wednesday.

The office has identified several people in the Seimas who came into contact with the infected person, according to a press release.

While Latvia has yet to record a coronavirus death, the situation became more grave with the Disease Prevention and Control Center (SPKC) confirming the first cases of so-called "social transmission" in the public - cases in which no clear cause of infection is known, such as a recent visit to an infected area or contact with someone else known to have the disease.

Five people in Rīga have tested positive after noticing symptoms, despite having no clear source of infection. This means that Latvia has reached the second stage of the disease, when it is not always known where the infected person became infected.

According to SPKC Infectious Disease Risk Analysis Department Director Jurijs Perevoščikovs the development is serious.

"These patients could have become infected anywhere - in the minibus, in the store, they can't pinpoint any link to Covid-19 sufferers. This means that the virus is already spreading in Latvia. We discovered this fact and it must be taken very seriously," he said.

The development makes diligent and responsible behavior by other members of the public even more important, Perevoščikovs said.

However, evidence gathered by police suggests that some members of the public are not heeding that call.

Normunds Krapsis, deputy chief of the State Police, said that the police had received more than 4,000 calls about people who sould be in quarantine and self-isolation, as a result of which 228 enquiries were opened and 25 violation records were drawn up. Most of the cases - 147 - were in the Rīga region, mostly related to non-compliance with self-isolation requirements, Krapsis said.

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