The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control expects a coronavirus outbreak again in the autumn, with the Delta variant dominating, which is 40-60% more infectious. Summer alone is a short moment of respite from limits and time when we can prepare to fight the virus.
Vaccination is considered to be the most important weapon for combating coronavirus. Experts have acknowledged that vaccines are effective against the new virus type, but only if the vaccination course has been completed. However, only a third of the population has begun the vaccination process in Latvia.
At the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on July 6, the Ministry of Health highlighted the conditions and directions for the forthcoming autumn and winter in anticipation of another wave of Covid-19.
3 security modes and traffic lights principle
Kaspars Berzins, Minister for Health Policy Adviser, explained that work in institutions and businesses would take place in three safety regimes:
- first - wherever possible, the 'safe' mode is used, when everyone present has been vaccinated or overcome Covid. This would be the basis for schools, different services, cultural activities. Those in this mode would also be able to continue work if morbidity grows;
- second - the partially safe mode, where people have been either vaccinated, overcome the disease or tested. This would be implemented for services, like hairdressers, restaurants, some events.
- third - only basic services would work in the mode where the status of the present persons is unknown. This would apply to public transport, grocery stores, pharmacies and similar. If morbidity grows, it will be necessary to impose limitations.
Bērziņš said that the most significant mistake last year was that the virus's spread failed to be combated because a strict security regime was not applied in good time.
The principle of traffic lights would still work. If the cumulative two-week incidence rate per 100 000 inhabitants is below 200, safety rules for those who have not been vaccinated or overcome Covid-19 will be established.
But if the virus spreads to over 200 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants, then the Ministry of Health recommends mobilizing the public – remote work, significant restrictions on movement and strict safety measures.
“But there is still the safe treatment for people who have been vaccinated. There is no reason to limit them. Services can be provided, “green mode” can be applied to the school, events can take place because the risk is less there,” Bērziņš said.
Action plan for each sector
Bērziņš also pointed out that it is important to prepare action plans for each sector if an emergency situation is to be put in place. The sectoral ministries must do this by 1 August.
Latvian Radio addressed the Ministry of Economics, asking if it had such a plan. But the ministry declined to comment, explaining that it had started working on it, given that it had just been asked, and adding that this was vacation time. If the epidemiological situation is deteriorating rapidly, the Ministry replied that it would stick to the plans already implemented.
Henriks Danusēvičs, Chairman of the Latvian Traders Association, believes that the Ministry needs to review the previously adopted restrictions: “It is imperative that there be a review because there are many exaggerations and many unnecessary bureaucratic demands that arise because the rules were adopted in a chaotic manner and often without regard to the interests of the industry, but the interests of individual entrepreneurs. For example, the same set of 25 square meters, those hundred and one notes that are required to be glued to shops. For example, one of the stupidest [rules] was that when you go into the mall, there's one basket, but then when you go into the store you have to pick up a second basket. And then you walk around, sorry, like an idiot with two baskets.”
In Danusēvičs' view, it would also be necessary to lay down rules for the ventilation of rooms. “Of course, the situation in Latvia should not be allowed again that shops are closed for four months. We have to do as it happens in a civilized Europe – if there are any lockdowns then they are for four weeks. Then let the industries recover. If the disease is aggravated again, it shall be closed again for four weeks.”
It is planned that everyone will return to school benches on September 1. Advisor for Minister for Education and Science, Jānis Ozols, said that responsibility for epidemiological security measures would lie mainly on the shoulders of the founders of schools, mostly municipalities.
“Every school will have its own situation, so we must not look at one centralized solution. We need to make recommendations that are safe, what is the set of techniques that can be applied in a particular situation. [..] As much as possible the right to decide and also the responsibility for the decisions taken must be transferred directly to those responsible in the local situation,” Ozols said.