Latvia declares new COVID-19 emergency rules as infection rate soars

The Latvian government on Friday declared new emergency rules to stem the country’s rapidly rising COVID-19 incidence.

The government also decided to declare a state of emergency, which will come into effect on Monday, and will remain in force until Jan. 11.

Latvia’s cumulative 14-day COVID-19 incidence surged to record-high 784.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday, while a steady inflow of coronavirus patients in hospitals threatened to overwhelm the Baltic country’s health system, which has already been forced to limit services to other patients.

Ministers also passed a draft of new COVID-19 restrictions, which are mainly targeting the unvaccinated population, as well as mandated vaccines against the coronavirus for all public sector employees.

Under the new emergency rules, on-site work is only permitted in cases where work from home is not possible. Only employees with valid COVID-19 certificates attesting vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test result, will be allowed into workplaces.

Provision of in-person services will only be permitted in a safe environment, which again means that everyone will need the certificates.

In a bid to reduce in-person contacts, large indoor gatherings will be banned. Visits to restaurants, cafes and bars will only be allowed with COVID-19 certificates and the working hours of catering establishments will be shortened.

To prevent COVID-19 from spreading in schools, all students and school staff are required to wear masks and extracurricular group activities like excursions will be suspended.