COVID-19 testing made mandatory for guest workers in Latvia

Following the proposal of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC), the government decided on mandatory COVID-19 tests for guest workers at the end of the first week following their arrival in Latvia, Ministry of Health said Tuesday, July 28.

The new regulation provides for guest workers from countries with high COVID-19 risk to be tested for the infection before starting work. Until a negative result comes back, the person must comply with self-isolation. Five to seven days after arrival, the person  must undergo another COVID-19 test.

Up until now, there was a requirement that the test must be carried out before leaving the home country, only then could a permit for entry be obtained, under the responsibility of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA). 

“We have also spoken to the SPKC and the Ministry of Health, and it is quite possible that the test is negative for the first time and, after several days, it is positive,” said LIAA Director Kaspars Rožkalns.

The proposal came after five guest workers from Uzbekistan were infected with COVID-19 last weekend. At the same time, the responsible authorities do not see great risks when entering Latvia.

The case of five guest workers with COVID-19, reported by the SPKC on Sunday, is the largest number of infected guest workers found at the same time, but not the first case, said Jurijs Perevoščikovs, SPKC epidemiologist. Previously, there have been two more cases of infected workers, from Ukraine.

“Many employers are interested in how many of these people might be infected, and in several cases this testing is done directly by employers. It was also this time. Those people were tested – a larger group – and coronavirus was found with five. They are in strict isolation right now,” Perevoščikovs said.

These employees had just arrived and had not yet started work. It was the employer's initiative that allowed the disease to be discovered. But it is not always possible to rely on it, the epidemiologist said. 

This is also the reason why the optimal testing time would be a week after arrival, the SPKC confirmed. However, there is no reason to think about even stricter restrictions at the moment, because it is already strict for guest workers, and there are far fewer contacts. The LIAA also pointed out that guest workers must comply with isolation after working hours, they must not travel by public transport, employers must certify that, if necessary, they will cover the costs of treatment and provide a quarantine facility.

The LIAA has so far issued a permit to enter and work to 672 foreign employees. 100 applications have been rejected.


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