Latvian Prime Minister wants faster pace regarding COVID-19 issues

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš is dissatisfied with the pace of Health Minister Ilze Viņķele on COVID-19 issues, according to an interview in the magazine IR.

Kariņš added that he assumes full responsibility for not having forced quicker action.

The Prime Minister said that over the past four weeks, the government has been actively following what medics themselves say about the system's ability to deal with COVID-19. Last week, for the first time, the Ministry of Health formed an internal crisis management team to begin reorganizing hospitals and free up more beds for potential COVID-19 patients.

"Before, the system itself was not prepared to accept that the crisis was growing very dramatically. The pace at which the situation is understood and solutions are offered has long been too slow," said Kariņš.

On October 8, according to Kariņš, the Health Minister had said that no strategy was needed.

“On October 27 we finally adopted a strategy. For a long time, our experts and the ministry weren't prepared to say we're actually in a crisis. Remember, the spring situation was very positive. Everywhere else, the figures went up, ours didn't," the Prime Minister said.

Kariņš said that he had wanted “us to close everything much faster” for a long time.

However, the World Health Organization and our experts have argued that it needs to happen gradually.

“We have gone, I would say, in aggressive gradualism, we are now in third level, already at the red border with all the restrictions. We have achieved nothing with this step-by-step approach, since the prevalence of infection is not significantly limited. The average daily increase in Latvia was the third fastest in Europe in September-October,” said Kariņš.

“Unfortunately, no expert has a black-or-white answer,” he added.

The Prime Minister added that there are rarely politics with no disagreements. “In this case, [I disagree with] the pace, perception. I don't want to experiment with the public. Better make mistakes by being strict and it turns out that it was not necessary, rather than being not wary enough,” he said.

According to him, the Minister for Health believes more in the good will of people.

“I have experienced that 80-90% have the good will, but those 10% in these pandemic conditions can ruin the party for everyone. So you can't rely on good will. It costs us too much now,” he said.

The Prime Minister also stressed that many people do not respect the rules of distancing, so more safety measures are needed to force those people who themselves do not accept responsibility.

On Friday, November 6, the government will decide on the possible announcement of the state of emergency in Latvia.

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