Policy responses for Latvia - HSRM

Latvia


Policy responses for Latvia

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

The emergency situation in Latvia ended on June 9, but a number of conditions still need to be met (Cabinet Regulation “Epidemiological safety measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 infection” (No.360 from 09.06.2020) in force from 10.06.2020.

Education and sport

  Preschools can organize face-to-face training for 5-6 year old children
  Face-to-face consultations in preparation for state examinations or professional qualification examinations are allowed.
  The 12th grade state examinations will be held in person, provided that the distance and hygiene requirements are observed, and the use of protective equipment will be ensured. The exams will take place without breaks, but their duration will not exceed three hours.
  non-contact sports trainings or classes are allowed, subject to the following conditions:
  no more than 25 people should gather in one training group at the same time;
  indoor training time - three hours, outdoor time unlimited;
  the lesson is led by a certified coach;
  a mutual distance of two meters is observed;
  the flows of different training groups do not physically overlap;
  children under 7 years of age do not participate in training;
 individuals follow the instructions of the sports venue manager and coach;
  other physical distancing and epidemiological safety measures to be developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Health must be observed.


Update 10 June:

There are special conditions in sports training - no more than 30 people, including coaches, can be in one training group. Until 31 July, indoor sporting events with a total public space of less than 1000 m2 must take place without spectators.
Children's camps can have up to 30 children, while there can be up to 50 adults participating in non-formal education activities 


Update 29 June:

Children’s participation in camps requires a certificate issued by a family doctor, and it must be issued no later than seven days before the start of the camp. The GP will assess the child's health, but there is no need to send the child for a Covid-19 test.

 

Businesses:

Update 29 June:

Commercial and catering companies must follow the following principles in order to limit Covid-19 exposure in their future operations (from June 9,2020):

-        inform visitors about precautionary measures

-        keep a distance of 2 meters

-        observe hygiene requirements

-        supervise the health condition of employees.

When determining the restrictions on gathering, at least 4 m2 of publicly accessible premises per one visitor must be provided in trade and public catering establishments.

In addition, the catering service provider must ensure that:
-the distance of two meters between the tables is observed, if there is no partition wall between them;

-there are no more than 4 visitors who are not members of the same household indoors at one table;

-there are no more than 8 visitors who are not members of the same household at one table outdoors;

-it is possible for visitors to buy food to take away;

-cutlery, tableware and napkins are issued to each visitor individually;

-table disinfection is performed after each visitor's meal;

-the work of the public catering place shall start not earlier than at 6.30 and ending no later than 2.00.
  

Events and gatherings

      Gathering indoors and outdoors is allowed for up to 25 people at organized public and private events. Organized religious activities are allowed. Private events at home have to take into account the area of the apartment so not to exceed the number of people allowed as by instructions of epidemiologists.

      The duration of the outdoor activities will not be limited, but indoors activities will not exceed three hours. The organizer will also have to ensure compliance with restrictions and the availability of disinfectants.

      The working hours of culture, entertainment, sports and other recreation places will be extended from 7.00 until 24.00.

      all stores are  open in the shopping centers on weekends and holidays

Update 10 June:

From June 10, up to 100 people can gather indoors, and up to 300 people outdoors, keeping a distance of 2 meters between people

From 1 July to 31 July, no more than 100 people will be able to stay indoors with a total public space of less than 1,000 square meters. In premises with a total area of more than 1,000 square meters up to 500 people can be accommodated at a time.

The working hours of places of cultural, sports, entertainment and religious activity shall start not earlier than 6.30 and ending no later than 24.00.


Transport
New measures for epidemiologically safe use of public transport were introduced, such as  the obligation to wear a mouth and nose mask in public transport.

Update 10 June: In public transport, where it is often not possible to keep a distance of 2 meters between people, it is still necessary to use a mouth and nose mask.


Travel

There are no trips to EU and EEA countries which are published on the SPKC website as countries with a high risk to public health (the 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population exceeds 25).

When entering Latvia from a country where the 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants exceeds 15, self-isolation will have to be observed for 14 days after leaving said country.

 
Borders

From May 15, the internal borders between the Baltic States will be opened (without the need for quaratine) Arrivals from outside the Baltic states will have to observe a 14-day quarantine period, as of present.

• Borders
-Movement of persons and vehicles through airports, ports, rail and road crossing points at the external border of the European Union and at points other than the freight traffic of local border traffic has been prohibited as of March 17, 2020.
-The Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Head of the State Border Guard has the right to apply exceptions regarding the movement of persons and vehicles.
Despite the fact that international passenger transport is now generally completely suspended, approximately 500 Latvians will travel to Germany, Sweden and Norway by ferry in the week of April 7-13, as announced on April 7.
The permission for these ferry trips was given by the Minister of Transport Tālis Linkaits, who explained that they are primarily intended for employees of companies that have received a permit from the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) to work abroad, mainly in construction, and intend to stay there no less than 3 months.
The Investment and Development Agency pointed out that security comes first, but this priority should be balanced with maintaining economic activity

• Mobility (transport)
-Citizens of the Republic of Latvia and foreigners who have their permanent residence in the Republic of Latvia shall have the right to enter once at the border crossing points to return to their permanent residence;
-Estonian and Lithuanian nationals, as well as persons permanently residing in these countries, are allowed to cross the territory of the Republic of Latvia once at the border crossing points to return to their country of residence;
-Tour operators and passenger carriers should cancel tourist trips abroad as of March 19, 2020.
-Business trips and missions abroad are cancelled as of March 19, 2020.
-Residence permits were extended for aliens who were legally staying in the Republic of Latvia until 13 March 2020 and whose legal residence period expired after 13 March 2020
-Official current travel advice and information available on the webpage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia: https://www.mfa.gov.lv/konsulara-informacija/bridinajumi-celotajiem
General information: https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/component/content/article/426-visas-vestniecibas/spain-en/spain-news/65631-the-centre-s-for-disease-prevention-and-control-of-latvia-recommendations-for-a-person-who-visited-covid-19-affected-area-in-the-last-14-days?Itemid=353
• Economy
As a result of the COVID-19 emergency, several companies are laying off workers under a collective redundancy scheme, but the labour market is changing and several sectors are now directly facing shortage of workforce ( e.g. food production industry).
On April 9, the Nordic Investment bank signed a EUR 500 million loan to Latvia to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
https://bnn-news.com/nordic-investment-bank-lends-latvia-eur-500-million-to-battle-covid-19-212273

Several measures are taken in other sectors:
o The Minister for Agriculture is empowered to take decisions relating to COVID-19 containment and mitigation measures in the food chain, agriculture, forestry and fisheries;
o Sea cargo ship operators or agents must submit the sea health declarations to the CDPC before the cargo ship enters the Latvian port for the epidemiological surveillance of cargo
o Easier conditions are adopted for donations to public entities and institutions when a good or service is used to limit the spread and consequences of COVID-19
• State aid
-Protection for vulnerable people in households at risk of abuse
In the case of poor or underprivileged, eligible for the European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived Persons, the period of validity of the certificate shall be extended for an additional period of one calendar month after the emergency. Inquiries are extended until May 31, 2020 on the basis of a previous application and documents. For retired, disabled, long-term clients, certificates may be renewed for the entire period provided for by the municipal regulations.
Municipal social services are provided on preferential terms. Persons (families) or who needs to re-establish the status of a poor or disadvantaged person or who is in a crisis situation, can remotely contact the social service of the local government (by e-mail or by submitting an application in a specially designed box). The municipal social service in the state and municipal information systems check the applicant's compliance with the relevant status without requesting any additional documents, and makes a decision on whether or not they qualify.
While the state of emergency is declared throughout the country and one calendar month after the end of the emergency (henceforth until May 31, 2020), the municipality must assign a family (person) a social benefit due to the crisis, which is paid from the funds of the local government budget. Municipalities will be provided with state support for providing emergency assistance to families and persons in need. The State will provide an earmarked grant of 50% of the amount of the benefit paid to the person in a crisis situation, but not more than € 40 per month per person for a period of three months. This means that the state will co-finance up to € 120 per person per household over a three-month period.
Persons and families in need can use the existing operational program for “Providing Food and Basic Material Assistance to the Most Deprived Persons for the 2014-2020” to receive food packages when needed with the assistance from municipality social workers.
For financial support and guarantees for businesses a special law “On measures to prevent and manage national threats and consequences of COVID-19 proliferation” (in force as of March 22, 2020) has been adopted to initiate a number of tax support measures for businesses, their employees and economic operators. The state support is provided for (1) the extension of tax payment and (2) the payment of compensation to employees of affected companies. Taxpayers may request to defer tax payments for up to three years from the date of filing, and are granted extensions to late tax payments already due under the Taxes and Duties Act if the delay is due resulting from COVID-19. With regards to companies affected by the pandemic, the employees are paid 75% of the average monthly gross wage in the previous six months but not more than 700 euros per calendar month. The financial support is provided through the State Revenue Service. It has been found that some employees and self-employed who have a very low downtime benefit or who do not qualify for a downtime benefit due to an employer's non-compliance  with the requirements (like tax debt) will receive a downtime allowance with a lower threshold of EUR 180 (from  April 24, 2020).
To support large companies, an Equity Fund with state funding of EUR 75 million (the total amount of the fund, public and private, is expected to be 125 million) will be established. The fund will enable a capital investment in a company of up to 10 million euros. About 30 large companies could receive capital investment support.
Support will be provided to viable companies in temporary difficulties, such as a significant drop in exports, and to companies that adapt or transform their current business model, thus contributing to their continued success in export markets.
The fund will consist of public and private funding, but it will be managed by the Development Finance Institution Altum.
Municipalities will be entitled to receive state budget loans for the increase of the share capital of municipal capital companies if the turnover of the capital company has decreased by more than 50% due to the COVID-19 crisis

To date (April 28), the country has intended to provide monetary aid to alleviate the Covid-19 crisis, distributed as follows:
- payment of downtime benefits to employees: EUR 101,8 million
- EUR 45.5 million to the agricultural sector
- EUR 11.4 million to the Ministry of Welfare for the payment of social benefits.
- EUR 2.6 million to The Ministry of the Interior to provide bonuses for work in conditions of increased risk and workload
- EUR 2.3 million for media support.
-EUR 207 million has been allocated to state-controlled companies:
-EUR 15 million to state owned university hospitals
-EUR 36.2 million to increase the share capital of airBaltic, EUR 6 million to the state company "Latvian Air Traffic" and EUR 49.9 million to increase the share capital of Riga International Airport.

o Home education support
The Ministry of Education and Science has developed guidelines for general and vocational training institutions for the implementation of distance learning. Guiding documents are available on the websites https://izm.gov.lv/lv/macibas-attalinatiwww.visc.gov.lv , www.skola2030.lv.
A recent survey by the Ministry of Education and Science found that in Latvia there are around 3% of schoolchildren who do not have a computer or a smartphone with an internet connection at home, which makes it difficult for them to participate in distance learning. To address this issue, mobile service providers have expressed their support for the provision of smart devices for schoolchildren to implement distance learning: the mobile service provider Latvijas Mobilais telefons offers 2,266 smartphones, while mobile service provider BITE Latvija offers 3,000 smartphones. Both operators will also provide free call and internet access to these devices.
• Civil protection:
The state of emergency has been declared throughout Latvia as of March 13, 2020 originally until April 14, 2020 (Order of Cabinet of Ministers no.103. However on April 7 the state of emergency was extended until May 12 (https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/society/latvia-extends-state-of-emergency-by-one-month.a355058/). COVID-19 prevention measures are supervised by the Crisis Management Council for the Spread of Coronavirus chaired by the Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins.
According to the Civil Protection and Disaster Management Act, municipal councils must have civil protection commissions or specially created crisis units, which ensure uniform coordination of actions within the municipality.
o Deployment of military resources
From March 30 to April 14, the Latvian National Armed Forces will provide support to the State Border Guard. At least 40 Armed Forces soldiers and national guards will be on duty at the external border of the European Union 24/7 in the supervision of the Latvian-Russian state border.
40 soldiers and national guards will also be involved in surveillance of the internal borders (with Estonia and Lithuania) 24 hours a day.