Latvian officials say all is in place for coronavirus response

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Latvia's government and senior officials from the health sector, border guards and others met in Rīga February 25 under the auspices of the Crisis Management Council (KVP) as part of their preparations for any possible arrival of the coronavirus in Latvia.

No cases have been detected yet, but the recent appearance of cases in Italy has raised the potential for a spread of the virus in the rest of Europe.

In its report, the Ministry of Health confirmed that no cases of coronavirus have yet been confirmed in Latvia. At the same time, the situation can rapidly change in view of rising morbidity in other parts of the world.

Minister of Health Ilze Vinķele stated that everything in Latvia is prepared to prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible and that all parties involved are now taking appropriate security measures. 

Individuals who within 14 days of returning from countries and territories known to have the virus present show signs of illness - cough, high temperature, throat inflammation, difficulty breathing, etc. - should call emergency number 113 rather than visit their family doctor.

Children returning from coronavirus-affected countries and territories are subject to special precautions and must spend 14 days at home. The child can then return to an educational institution with a certificate from a family doctor certifying that the child is healthy.

Citizens who are currently planning to travel to coronavirus-affected countries, on the other hand, should assess the need for a trip or follow general prevention measures during the trip, as well as follow local authority guidelines.

At the KVP meeting, all relevant health services and authorities confirmed their readiness to act in accordance with the recommendations of the National Emergency Medical Plan and the recommendations of international health organizations, as appropriate.  

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC), and the Emergency Medical Service (NMPD) will continue to ensure regular and appropriate information exchange with the World Health Organization, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Commission Emergency Coordination Center, with an outbreak caused by a new coronavirus.

"Since January 29, 32 laboratory tests (including 9 children) were performed on possible cases of COVID-19 in Latvia. All results were negative. There are no cases of COVID-19 in Latvia so far," said the SPKC on February 26.

All up-to-date information and updates are posted on the Centers for Disease Prevention Center (SPKC) and social network accounts of the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health also said it will submit a request to the Cabinet for the allocation of funds from the state budget contingency reserve for "additional equipment and hardware" for hospitals including the purchase of personal protective equipment for doctors and the purchase of materials for laboratory testing as the potential number of patients increases.

Speaking to Latvian Radio February 26, Professor Uga Dumpis, head of the Infection Surveillance Department at Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital, said the new Covid-19 coronavirus can be expected to reach Latvia as well, and most likely cannot be avoided. The task is to keep the virus from spreading in our country as far as possible.

He noted that there is hope for a vaccine to be developed, and that the coming summer could reduce the spread of the virus.

According to Dumpis, the speed at which the coronavirus arrives in Latvia depends on how active people from Latvia are in travelling to areas where the virus has been detected. 

People should wash their hands as often as possible while traveling, Dumpis said, and that particular care should be taken by the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems.  

Latvian officials on Monday decided to extend the restrictive measures against the Covid-19 coronavirus by identifying areas requiring special precautions after visiting. As of Monday, China, South Korea, Iran, and the Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto are designated as countries or territories affected by the coronavirus.

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