Policy responses for Latvia - HSRM


Policy responses for Latvia

1.2 Physical distancing

Expanded use of face masks and reduced number of people allowed in private and public events

With the rapid increase in the incidence of Covid-19, the number of people allowed in private and public events is being reduced. From October 24, the number of indoor gatherings for private events will decrease from 30 to 10 people and for outdoor events from 300 to 100. From October 26, the use of face masks has been expanded to all public places such as museums, libraries, cultural centers, exhibition halls and conference centers, open-air stages, etc., including places where people are seated. Exceptions apply where the use of masks is not possible, such as swimming pools, water parks, saunas and similar places.

Due to rising numbers of infections, the government declared a state of emergency throughout the country for four weeks, from 9 November to 6 December 2020, during which the following measures and restrictions apply: 

Gathering, entertainment, recreation, sports and catering
-    All public events in person are prohibited. The ban does not apply to outdoor meetings and processions for up to 50 people.
-    Not more than 10 people and 2 households can gather at private events at the same time. UMore than 2 households can attend funerals with up to a maximum of 10 people (excluding people who provide the funeral).
-    Public places, including sports halls, bars and restaurants are closed. Catering establishments may serve food only for take-away.
-    Museums, libraries and cultural institutions are only open for individual visits.
-    For amateur art groups, including choirs, orchestras, folk music ensembles, dance groups and other folk-art groups, rehearsals may only be carried out remotely, while on-site rehearsals may only be carried out individually or by persons living in the same household.
-    All sporting events are prohibited and cancelled, with the exception of sports competitions for adult national team athletes included in the calendar of sports competitions of the International Olympic Sports Federation, if they take place without spectators.
-    Sports training for amateurs can take place only outdoors for no more than 10 people and without use of changing rooms, but indoors only individual training is allowed.

Availability of services, points of sale and opening hours
-    In state and municipal institutions services are provided remotely or with prior appointment
-    Beauty services are prohibited, hairdressing services are provided by prior arrangement and within a distance of 2 meters between clients.
-    On weekends and public holidays, in shopping centers only grocery stores, pharmacies, animal feed stores, bookstores, press outlets, optical stores, hygiene and household goods stores, telecommunications goods service points are open.
-    Retail outlets must provide 10 square meters per visitor and wear a mask. The mask should also be worn in open market areas and street sales.
-    Courts will make maximum use of written proceedings or hear cases remotely. Face-to-face litigation processes will only take place in exceptional cases

The law foresees a fine of EUR 10 to EUR 2,000 euros on a natural person, and EUR 140 to EUR 5,000 on a legal person for violating the restrictions or prohibitions set during the emergency situation.

On November 24, the Latvian government adopted further restrictions. First, no more than 10 people may gather at private events. Further, in municipalities with a 14-day notification rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population twice as high as the national average in the previous week, stricter measures will be implemented :
• museums and other cultural sites do not work
• fairs are not open;
• there are no amateur sports trainings indoors (sports clubs do not work);
• no private events may take place outside the same household (no guest living elsewhere may be accommodated)
• in urban public transport, the number of passengers may not exceed 50% of the maximum number of passengers permitted
• not more than 20% of the maximum number of visitors usually allowed may be located indoors and outdoors in shops and other points of sale.

On December 1, the government decided to extend the state of emergency declared until 11 January 2021 by imposing a series of new and stricter restrictions:

• From December 7, stricter control of people entering Latvia will take effect to make sure that they have filled in the electronic "Covidpass.lv”
• On December 4, conditions for trade on weekends and public holidays were clarified, the sale of certain groups of goods, including alcohol, is prohibited. Only the sale of food and basic necessities is allowed.

The restrictions in place have been prolonged at least until February 7, the curfew during the night is also extended. Since December 30, people in Latvia cannot leave their homes between 22:00 pm and 5:00 am.

On February 2, the government decided to prolong the state of emergency until 6th April 2021. As of February 8, 2021 the following changes:

• Less restrictions in specific shops and hygiene stores: The concept of "safe trading" has be introduced which consists of at least 25qm per customer and visitors being admitted only one by one (except for persons in need of assistance and children under 12 years of age); on-site sales are being expanded - opened bookstores and shops selling seeds, substrates and deratization products, electrical goods.
• Restrictions remain in place in education: classes for 1st and 2nd grades have been postponed and face-to-face counselling is allowed at all school ages for schoolchildren and students with learning difficulties, technological difficulties, also requiring psycho-emotional support, and for school and university graduates.

From March 16, those working in public administration, local governments and the private sector will have to work remotely. This requirement will not apply to industry and other work that cannot objectively be performed remotely; If the work will be in person, the head of the institution will need to ensure that there is only one employee in the office, in an open type office one person must provide at least 15 square meters of available space.

The emergency situation in Latvia ended on June 9, but a number of conditions still need to be met. As of July 11, 2020, the most important physical distancing and epidemiological safety measures in place are:
- Recommendations to use face masks in places where there are many people, where it is not possible to keep a distance of 2 meters, as well as in public transport
- Maximum 100 people at an event organized in rooms smaller than 1000 m2
- Maximum of 500 people at an event organized in rooms larger than 1000 m2
- Maximum of 1000 people are allowed at an outdoor event

As of August 11, the following regulations apply: 
- Maximum of 1000 people at an event organized in rooms. The occupancy has not to exceed 50% of premises space.
- Maximum of 3000 people are allowed at an outdoor event 
- When service providers and event organizers anticipate a flow of more than 500 people, an action plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 should be developed, both indoors and outdoors.

In general, catering establishments must still provide a distance of two metres between tables, as well as an area of at least 3 metres squared of public indoor space per visitor. Catering service providers must also, in a visible place, at least at the entrance, display information on the number of visitors allowed on the premises. This information will also serve as a reference point for the municipal police, allowing them to check that the number of people on the premises complies with the regulations.  In order to reduce possible crowding, the condition regarding the number of people at one table at catering facilities open to the public has been restored (this restriction was previously in place but expired on 1 Jul). As of 11 July, no more than 4 persons are allowed to be at one table indoors, and no more than 8 persons around a table outdoors. Restaurants are open till 2 o’clock at night, bars and other entertainment places till midnight.

Due to rising numbers of cases, the use of mouth and nose masks in public transport (including school buses) is mandatory as of October 7. Two population groups are exempted from this rule, 1) children under the age of 13 may and 2) person who lack the ability or skills to use the mouth and nose mask (e.g. handicapped persons).

As of October 14, face masks are required in sales places (shops, gas stations and other places).  Their use will also be mandatory in railway stations, bus stations, airports, as well as cultural and religious sites.

From October 17 to November 6, 2020, other physical distancing measures are introduced:  
- Sports training (classes) in groups can only take place outdoors or remotely, without the use of shared changing rooms. Indoor training can only take place individually.
- On-site interest education classes (outside regular school) for both adults and children in groups are prohibited. Only individual training is allowed. This also applies to music and art schools; secondary class students in grade 7-12 will study remotely for one week from 26 to 30 October (one week after school holidays)
- Private event venues may have a total of 30 people indoors and 300 people outdoors. If a private event is held in a public place, such as a restaurant, club, etc., guests must be placed with fixed, personalized seating, a distance of 2 meters (except for persons from one household), and the event can take place until 12pm.
- Indoor restaurants and bars may have no more than 4 people seated at  one table (if not from one household).

The measures of physical distancing are considered to be the most effective way of reducing the outbreak of the coronavirus.

o Physical distancing measures were first introduced on March 13 and include
• Self-isolation and monitoring of health for travellers 14 days after their arrival in Latvia (mandatory)
• Self-isolation for persons who were in close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case in the last 14 days prior to onset of symptoms (mandatory)

o “Stay at home” campaigns are aimed at the general public and recommend reducing direct contact with other people (this means not welcoming guests, visiting public places, institutions, private visits, etc.). As of March 30, 2020, stricter requirements have been introduced for the gathering of people: no more than two people can be in public places together and must keep a distance of 2 meters from other people.

o Restricted internal movement is recommended: citizens should stay at their place of residence, not go to work, public places, places with large numbers of people. Citizens should stay as far away as possible from each other and are urged not to use public transport.

o State and local government institutions have to evaluate and, to the extent possible, ensure the provision of certain civil services remotely;

o Latvian educational institutions are closed as of March 13, 2020 and have to provide a remote learning process (mandatory). All forms of face-to-face activities inside and outside of educational institutions are interrupted, including cultural activities, hobby education programs, sports (including indoor sports activities) and children's camps;

o Pre-schools and childcare facilities should provide on-call services to offer pre-school services to parents who cannot provide childcare themselves. From March 13 2020, for children to attend a pre-school, parents need to submit a written statement to the pre-school once a week confirming that the child and family have not been abroad for the past 14 days and have not been in contact with COVID-19 patients or contacts, and parents are not otherwise able to provide childcare;
o Specific social distancing activities and measures are directed at certain confined populations (e.g. long-term care facilities, psychiatric institutions, prisons, etc.):

• The institution should carry out a health screening of the employees and the persons being cared for;
• Persons with confirmed COVID-19 have to be isolated in a well-ventilated single room;
• The number of carers have to be limited and it is desirable that the person caring for the patient in long-term institution is in good health and has no chronic illnesses;
• Collective activities of the caregivers and clients have been stopped;
• Restriction of visits to the institution from third parties, except with the permission of the head of the institution to perform basic functions, such as to provide alternative means of communication to persons, e.g. virtual telephone or video communications;
• Visits from relatives are allowed only if the person cared for is seriously ill. In such situations, each visit is evaluated individually. A separate room should be provided for such visits in order to minimize the risk of visitors' contact with other persons in care, including measures to disinfect hands;
• Organizing effective collaboration with suppliers and other non-healthcare providers, for example through non-contact food delivery.
o It is recommended to avoid contact with persons over 60 years with chronic conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.).

o All public events of celebration, commemoration, entertainment, culture, sports and recreation, meetings, parades and pickets, religious indoor activities, sports club activities are prohibited. As of March 13, 2020 the ban concerned events with planned attendance of over 200; as of March 19, 2020 a full ban is in effect (Order of Cabinet of Ministers no.115).

o On March 13, mass gatherings of cultural, entertainment, leisure, outdoor sports, and religious activities were limited to 50 people but as of March 19, 2020 they were fully banned.
o Repatriated individuals shall confirm in writing before returning to the Republic of Latvia that they will take special precautions, including self-isolation, when returning to their country of residence. The carrier concerned is responsible for handing over the completed identity card to the State Border Guard (in force as of March 17, 2020, Order of Cabinet of Ministers no. 106.).

o The commencement of temporary custodial sentences in custodial institutions and suspension of the detention and transfer of persons sentenced to temporary custody were postponed; the implementation of the administrative penalty - administrative arrest, transfer of persons convicted and detained abroad for the purpose of subsequent execution of a custodial sentence or detention in the territory of the Republic of Latvia were postponed.

o For the purchase of basic necessities or food, persons in quarantine or self-isolation should use one of the following options: home delivery, avoiding contact with the supplier; supplies provided by relatives leaving purchases at the door; assistance from the municipal social service, avoiding direct contact with the social worker.

o As of March 20, 2020 special provisions have been adopted regarding the provision of social distancing measures at points of commerce – (Order of the Minister of Economics, no. 1-6.1/2020/51). The order requires shops to place a clearly legible sign for visitors to be socially responsible and to keep a 2 meter distance in the queue in the checkout area, to play announcements urging visitors to avoid unnecessary stay in the retail premises and to follow the posted instructions on the distance. Since March 28 shopping centers are closed throughout Latvia on Saturdays and Sundays. Pharmacies, pet stores, veterinary pharmacies, gardening and construction stores, optical shops, cleaning supplies and grocery stores remain open. From March 30, restaurants are required to place tables at least 2 meters away from each other, but most restaurants have closed and some offer food for take-away.