Face-protective masks on public transport, as previously proposed, will be mandatory from Wednesday, October 7, the Cabinet decided October 5.
Protective masks will not be mandatory for children under the age of 13. People who find it difficult to wear a protective mask because of health issues will also be exempt.
The Minister for Health Ilze Viņķele said that compulsory use of masks would also apply to school buses, allowing for the exception for children under 13.
The Minister added that this is an additional safety measure linked to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Latvia in recent weeks. The Ministry of Health explained that public transport is a place where distancing is difficult and there is little possibility of ventilation.
However, the Minister said that “in order to avoid limits”, individual security measures should be taken as far as possible, including working remotely, as well as wearing masks where distance cannot be observed.
❗️Latvijā saslimstība ar Covid-19 ir strauji pieaugusi, tāpēc no trešdienas, 7. oktobra, sabiedriskajā transportā ir obligāti jālieto sejas maskas. Saprotam, ka tas var būt neērti, bet tas ir būtisks drošības pasākums, lai ierobežotu vīrusa izplatību. https://t.co/Yc41n1mgEL pic.twitter.com/Lht2PXfvDl
— Veselības ministrija (@veselibasmin) October 5, 2020
Other possible additional safety measures are being evaluated by the Ministry. It is likely that the maximum number of visitors will be re-assessed at public events indoors.
Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš also reminded the public of the importance of distancing and hand hygiene.
Jurijs Perevoščikovs, epidemiologist of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC), added that the incidence of COVID-19 in Latvia has increased eight times in two weeks. The use of a protective mask mostly protects others, but to some extent it also protects oneself from COVID-19.
Compulsory face coverings on public transport were introduced for a time during the first wave of coronavirus in the spring. While initial take-up was high, it quickly tailed off and mask users became a clear minority. Whether the public will comply more fully this time will be interesting to see.