Face masks in public "part of the key" to easing COVID-19 restrictions says Latvian PM

Some of the restrictions introduced to curb the outbreak of Covid-19 might soon be eased and people might be required to wear face masks in some public places, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity) in an interview with Latvian public television May 6.

In his opinion, Latvia could follow examples of other countries by introducing a requirement for face masks as it would allow everyone to move around more actively, at the same time, reducing risks of the virus. Masks might be mandatory in certain public spaces, for example, public transport, the prime minister said.

Kariņš underscored that the masks would help protect others from contracting the disease.

"We are not protecting ourselves from others with a face mask, we are protecting others, potentially, from ourselves," he said, using the example of a passenger on a bus who might be infected and would be less likely to infect others if he sneezed or coughed and everyone on the bus was wearing a face mask.

"I think this is part of the key," he said, "We are looking for the right balance between taking steps to re-open the economy while at the same time having to live with this virus. We have to learn the right things to do."

"The difficulty is that we don't really know who is and who is not healthy, as many people do not display symptoms and might therefore spread the virus," the premier said.

He said Latvia had done well in tackling the coronavirus so far thanks to good cooperation between government and the general public and expressed hopes that it would continue. 

"There is no simple solution," he warned, saying that only continued co-ordination involving policymakers, epidemiologists, businesses and the public would prove effective in the long run. 

At the same time, this is just a part of the possible measures to reduce Covid-19 outbreak. He said that there is work under way on a mobile app that would help to find out whether there had been any person around who later is diagnosed with Covid-19.

As reported, Latvia will have to live with Covid-19 for some time still, but the government will decide on May 7 on its gradual exit from the state of emergency, Kariņš in a press conference on Tuesday.

The prime minister said that the Covid-19 outbreak in Latvia is being controlled, but the disease is still spreading in other countries, and so far there is no medicine against the virus.

He said that Latvia has to act responsibly in order to be able to gradually open up its economy, while ensuring public health and safety.

The current state of emergency remains in force until May 12.

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