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Health Minister: relaxed restrictions likely in Latvia

The government is continuing to gradually relax COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in the catering sector, as well as preparing scenarios depending on how the new school year goes, Health Minister Ilze Viņķele (Development/For!) told Latvian Radio August 3.

Viņķele said that relaxation of restrictions is a way to adapt to the presence of COVID-19 and living cautiously, in a way that does not interfere too much with people's lives.

The incidence rate in Latvia is currently 2.6 cases over 14 days per 100,000 people. In Europe, countries with a rate of up to 16 are recognized as relatively safe.

If these numbers do not change, the Ministry of Health (VM) will offer to ease restrictions on the catering sector next week, returning to the situation before the outbreaks of COVID-19, which involved visiting restaurants and entertainment sites.

VM will suggest allowing restaurants and cafes to operate again until 2 a.m., not until midnight, as is currently the case. For indoor tables, seating would be limited to 8 instead of 4,  but outside the plan is to lift the limit altogether.

An indoor assembly of up to 1,000 people could be allowed in place of the current 500, provided there are 3 square meters of space per visitor and 1.5 meter distancing.

Also, if the situation does not deteriorate after the re-introduction of on-site learning at schools, it could be decided to relax the restrictions on assembly.

In September, up to 5,000 people could be allowed to gather indoors, providing 3 square meters per person, and dividing the visitor sectors by 500 people per sector, Viņķele said.

If new outbreaks are registered, the restrictions will "take a step back, this will be the reality until there is a vaccine," the Minister said. 

She explained that there is no option other than to relax the restrictions, because “we see what happens if there is a long-standing limit, even in disciplined Germany there are protests, there is fatigue and a lack of focus and cooperation”.

But the government is prepared to return to the limits if necessary, Viņķele stressed.

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