For a long time, Latvia has been relaxing rules and restrictions in the fight with COVID-19, yet Latvia's incidence rate remains one of the lowest in the world. Recently, though, the rate has been going up, and it is debated whether Latvia can afford to leave restrictions at the current level, relax them to help economy, or tighten the rules.
Economics Minister Jānis Vitenbergs (KPV LV) said this morning that the tourism industry is asking for a boost to "crawl through to spring". He acknowledged that the current situation is particularly damaging for the travel sector, which is why tourism companies should seek help.
"If we are sacrificing one of the sectors for health and public safety, it also needs appropriate support, as in this case the tourism sector, because it is still very difficult to operate,” Vitenbergs said. The Minister agreed that health is the most important, but it must be balanced with economic survival.
Health Minister Ilze Viņķele (Development/For!) told Latvian Radio pointed out that the Health Ministry pays great attention to combining the lowest possible rates of infection with decisions that would cause the economy to decline as little as possible. She said that the tourism sector is suffering and needs to find support, but pointed out that, in Latvia's case, this sector is not an economic base. She does not see the possibility to follow the European Commission's recommendation to raise the threshold for cumulative rates to 50 per 100 000 inhabitants.
“At the moment, when the incidence rate has climbed recently and we are at 9, the jump to 50 would be rapid and high, but before we reach 16, I don't think any change would be appropriate,” Vinkele said.
The Minister also does not support replacing self-isolation with a series of tests, because the virus can also be carried by people whose the test does not yet indicate it. When asked about whether further limits can be relaxed in the future, Vinkele said that self-isolation time can be shortened from 14 to 10 days not only for arrivals but also contact persons.
“Next step, in the Cabinet tomorrow, we will offer quarantine for contact persons to be reduced to 10 days and a test. The duration is simply adjusted because new research results come in. But regarding assembly restrictions or entertainment sites or travel, we are not relaxing anything right now, and this is unlikely to be happen, but tougher conditions are not necessary for the time being either,” Vinkele said.
From today, everyone travelling to Latvia also receives a text message indicating how to avoid infection and a reminder of self-isolation.