Latvian government announces new "quiet three weeks" rules

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The Latvian government unveiled its much-touted list of new restrictions December 17 designed to counter the increasing spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Following a cabinet meeting, the measures -- which had been hinted at for several days -- were outlined by a succession of ministers and officials.

Prime Minister  Krišjānis Kariņš said: "We must understand the seriousness of the situation" adding that the reason for the new restrictions was to reduce the opportunity for the coronavirus to spread by reducing contact between individuals.

While the measures do not include overt restrictions on freedom of movement, they will certainly reduce the reasons for people to venture out and mingle, with a lengthy list of items that can be purchased from stores and items that cannot. Similar restrictions have been in place on weekends recently, but from Saturday December 19 they will apply during the week as well. This restriction will stay in place until January 11.

"Public transport will continue to run and people are encouraged to take the opportunity to spend time outdoors in nature," a government release said.

During the festive season, people will be able to buy food and groceries (including alcohol), household goods, hygiene products, food and goods for animals, press publications, public transport tickets, face masks and other personal protective equipment, as well as flowers and Christmas trees. These conditions will enter into force on 19 December and will remain in force until 11 January.

Pharmacies, including veterinary pharmacies, optical stores and petrol stations, will continue to operate as usual. There are no additional restrictions on trading through remote solutions, such as online shopping and the government said there was no need for people to stock up for a long time.

On-site services which will be prohibited include beauty treatments, piercing, tattooing, photoshoots, entertainment and wellness services such as spas and saunas.

From 21 December to 11 January, only essential services will be available in person. On-site services may be provided which involve no direct contact between the service provider and the recipients. During face-to-face service, contact between individuals should not exceed 15 minutes and a face mask should be worn by all present.

It is allowed to provide the goods necessary for the provision of existing services (for example, the provision of car parts in a car repair shop).

Detailed information will be available on the website  and the lists of permissible goods will be published on the Economics Ministry website.

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele said the decisions were taken following extensive analysis of data including mobile phone data showing people's movements during the state of emergency so far. She also said she was "under no illusions" as to the likely effect on people's behavior on Friday with a likely rush to buy Christmas presents and other seasonal items. 

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