Guest workers not a COVID-19 threat, says epidemiologist

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SPKC) said July 29 they do not believe guest workers in Latvia would significantly increase risk of COVID-19 spread, Latvian Radio reported.

In response to the fact that five guest workers from Uzbekistan were infected with COVID-19, the government decided on Tuesday to impose stricter controls on guest workers: they will have to carry out two tests. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SPKC) does not believe that the imported labor force in Latvia would significantly increase the spread of the virus. Since the end of the emergency, 672 guest workers have entered Latvia, most of them are employed in seasonal jobs in agriculture.

SPKC epidemiologist Jurijs Perevoščikovs recalls at least two other cases where COVID-19 has been identified with guest workers entering Latvia. Usually, testing is carried out by employers, and this time the virus has been detected by five people from Uzbekistan.

“I would like to note that in the last few days or during the last week we have had quite a lot of work related to international passenger transport, as just today we received a message that the Latvian people were at risk of infection on two trips abroad because they were sitting next to a COVID-19 patient. It is our responsibility to find passengers who were at this risk,” Perevoščikovs said.

For guest workers, the first two weeks are crucial. Responsibility must be borne by employers, ensuring compliance with self-isolation rules.

But the epidemiologist does not think that guest workers would specifically contribute to the spread of the virus in Latvia.

"The first thing we know well is that coronavirus is spreading frequently in the European Union among guest workers, sometimes concentration in a location. This is due to what living conditions are in a number of countries in the European Union, that these people live rather isolated from the rest of society. We do not see that guest workers have more contact than local people, our residents, who are returning to Latvia from high-risk countries. Guest workers also have less contact with local residents of Latvia or other countries because they live in isolation,” explained Jurijs Perevoščikovs.

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.

Since June 10, when the emergency ended, 672 guest workers have arrived in Latvia, mostly from Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Belarus. Proportionally, the majority – 282 – do seasonal work in Latvia.


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