Latvia will go into an effective national lockdown on Tuesday, March 17 when it closes its international borders to all passenger traffic on land, sea and air, following further anti-coronavirus measures announced March 14.
Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced the new measures following meetings of the cabinet and Crisis Management Council on Saturday afternoon.
While passenger traffic will be suspended at midnight on Monday night, the flow of goods will not be restricted to ensure shops can be restocked and services can be provided. In addition the restrictions will not apply to military transport and the Transport Minister will be empowered to make exceptions on an individual basis.
“The purpose is very simple… to do the most we can to protect our residents from the COVID-19 virus,” Kariņš told reporters.
Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said transport companies were being informed of the decision and full details would be published on the Transport Ministry website. He also urged Latvian residents who are currently in other countries to return to Latvia as soon as possible. Following the imposition of the new restrictions, Latvian citizens and declared residents will still be allowed back into the country.
In addition, Kariņš annoucned that all organized public events are banned until future notice and “unorganized” or spontaneous events including cultural, sporting and religious gatherings will have a maximum 50 participants. School examinations will be postponed until May, too.
Shortly afterwards Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs tweeted the news.
Health Minister Ilze Viņķele repeated advice about the importance of washing hands regularly and maintaining “social distance”. She also suggested people plan their shopping trips in advance and to take advantage of off-peak hours to minimise the number of people with whom each individual will come into contact. Under no circumstances should people go to work with flu-like symptoms, she said.
“The main thing has not changed – every person must take responsibility for their health,” Viņķele said.