Latvia's state of emergency extended until June 9, some restrictions eased

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The emergency situation in place in Latvia due to COVID-19 has been extended until June 9, but some of the strict measures in place currently will be slightly relaxed, it was confirmed after a marathon meeting of the Latvian cabinet May 7.

Speaking via video link at the conclusion of the meeting, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said: "We will continue to be responsible and to think of each other," as he confirmed the new measures.

The fixed capital of airBaltic will be increased by 250 million euros, Kariņš said, to ensure it can play its crucial role in the national economy, a move which was described as "very good news" by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs and which the Transport Ministry clarified would be made in three stages according to how the company performs.

Gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed from May 12, provided they keep at least two meters apart from each other, and indoor events will have a time limit of 3 hours. Suitable disinfectants will also need to be available for events to proceed.

The first cultural institutions to gradually reopen after 12 May are museums, libraries, the National Archives and private cultural sites such as cinemas or concert halls. The Ministry of Culture and its institutions in co-operation with the Ministry of Health have developed a so-called "sanitary protocol", which will be made binding on both state and local government and private cultural institutions.

Museums, libraries and archives will start operating gradually as soon as each institution is fully able to meet the requirements set out in the sanitary protocol.

Among other notable changes, use of something to cover nose and mouth will be compulsory on public transport, though it need not necessarily be a medical face mask - scarves or handkerchiefs could be used, for example.

Kindergartens will be able to re-open for five- and six-year olds.

Leisure and entertainment venues, including restaurants, will be able to open from 07:00 until midnight.

Non-contact sports training will be permitted, too, subject to regulations.

Travel and tourism services will also be permitted - but only within the three Baltic states.

The new rules will come into efffect when the current state of emergency is extended for another four weeks, from May 12.

"If no epidemiological obstacles arise during the next month, the number of visitors to public events could be increased to 50," said Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis, signalling the step-by-step approach of the government.

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele said officials would continue to monitor the situation using the previously used "4x4" regime based on four-day and four-weekly cycles, and that the new rules were intended to help the public adjust to the reality that COVID-19 will not disappear any time soon. 

"The pandemic has not finished... therefore we need to learn how to better manage our daily lives in relation to this virus," Viņķele said, stressing later that "life will not return to its previous rhythm" just yet. 

The government today also approved amendments to the conditions for granting downtime benefit to self-employed persons and micro-enterprise taxpayers, extend the period of downtime benefit until June 30.

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