Six Latvian funeral home employees mysteriously contract Covid-19

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Six employees of the Jelgava funeral home Velis-A were found to have contracted the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, according to the company's board chair Aldis Knāviņš, who himself had also tested positive for the virus, on March 30.

Knāviņš first noticed a temperature on March 17, but thought he just had the flu. Within two days four of his employees also fell sick, but all of them are recovering at home. Their health is being monitored by E. Gulbis Laboratory.

“At that moment there were 34 infected people in Latvia. Well, anything's possible, I'm not a doctor. And how we were infected, we probably won't find that out,” said Knāviņš.

According to the board chair, neither himself nor his employees had been abroad, although he also said before the implementation of the emergency one employee had returned from abroad. A Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDPC) epidemiological investigation found that the first infected person was infected abroad, and that several clients had been infected.

Before the virus was detected, the funeral home had apparently followed all precautionary measures: no more than two clients in a room, three meter distances, disinfected rooms and funeral ceremonies also followed emergency measures. Velis-A is now closed until the beginning of April.

In accordance with the new emergency measures all four funeral ceremony halls in Jelgava are closed. Further ceremonies can only be held outside, minimizing the possibility to spread the virus. This decision wasn't made specifically because of the infected persons at Velis-A.

“Even before, during the previous weekend the churches also restricted public gatherings for church services. Then the next week, taking into account how many people used their services for funeral ceremonies the previous week, the decision was made,” said Pilsētsaimniecība agency Deputy Director Sandra Liepiņa.

The first case of infection was found in Jelgava on March 22, but at least 11 residents are currently ill.

As reported yesterday, to mitigate the risks of further spread of Covid-19 among the population, the Latvian government adopted stricter regulations to limit gatherings of people in private and public events, which it said were "in line with the epidemiological situation."

The new restrictions on physical proximity apply to public indoor and outdoor activities and establish the rule that no more than two people may meet and that they must maintain a distance from each other of at least two meters. Furthermore, during the state of emergency meetings are prohibited - except for the holding of funeral ceremonies outdoors, which will also be subject to a two-meter interpersonal distance.

Any public events, as well as meetings, marches and pickets are prohibited. Indoor sports and religious activities are also prohibited. All encounters in public spaces - indoor, outdoor and communal areas - must comply with the two-meter distancing rule as well.

The only exceptions to the two-person, two-meter rule are persons living in the same household or their parents and their minor children if they do not live in the same household. More than two persons may also meet in one place if it is an essential part of their workplace duties.

At the request of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the National Police will be able to request information from electronic communications merchants on specific individuals who may have the status of infected or contact persons to conduct epidemiological investigations and verify the accuracy of the information provided by the person - in other words, quarantine-breakers will in theory be easier to trace.

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