Health experts puzzled about Latvian government's decisions

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Health experts are confused about the government's approved relief of Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday, December 21, at a time when the incidence of the Omicron strain is increasing, Latvian Radio reported December 22.

The government, on the one hand, urges people not to gather, but on the other, gives the green light to Covid-19 “super-spread events”, said the infectologist Uga Dumpis.

“Well, it is difficult for me to understand the mixed signal that one day we are talking that we should be careful and not to meet, and then we are officially allowing these super-spread events when a number of people [..] meet,” said Dumpis.

Associated Professor of the Rīga Stradiņš University  (RSU), public health expert Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne said that the decision to ease the rules during the holiday despite the risks of the new strain of virus raises concerns.

"The concern now is that with this relief, the crisis could come sooner. And the second concern is – the situation in Latvian hospitals is already quite fragile. Well, if we look at the statistics, then the number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 here is higher than in those countries where the situation was good and which are currently introducing lockdowns for Christmas, Western European countries. So, letting go of [restrictions]... We were very hopeful that this was not going to happen because there was no real basis for it," Ķīvīte-Urtāne said.

Meanwhile, political scientist Filips Rajevskis believes that the government is taking political responsibility with such a decision and appears to show that although there is a relief at the moment, more restrictions will come again if needed. Also, it appears that the government is making decisions on its own.

“I think the signal is that, on the one hand, we'll have the New Year a little freer, but in the end, we have to be prepared that if anything, then again we'll be sitting at home for a month. I mean, finally, the government is starting to try to think with its own head, not with the experts' heads. You listen to the experts and then do the way you think is right because you are the one who makes the decisions,” Rajevskis said.

Health experts, however, call on citizens to be accountable and, in spite of the loose restrictions on holiday, to avoid crowding in public places.

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