2020.03.12 15:30

Lithuanian government orders school closures and travel restrictions to prevent coronavirus

Ignas Jačauskas, BNS2020.03.12 15:30

The Lithuanian government is introducing tougher measures to prevent the coronavirus, closing schools for two weeks and banning travel to affected countries.

The State Emergency Situation Commission's plan also includes suspending the activities at all educational, cultural, sports and leisure establishments in the country.

Read more: Vilnius announces sweeping coronavirus measures: closing schools, cinemas and gyms for 5 weeks

The measures will come into effect on Friday and remain in place until March 27.

Earlier in the day, the city of Vilnius announced its own measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Education Minister Algirdas Monkevičius said that, under the government's plan, education institutions would be allowed to teach, but only remotely. The restrictions apply to kindergartens, secondary schools and universities, according to Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė.

Employers are recommended to allow employees with children to work from home, and if that's impossible, they must be granted sick leave.

The following two weeks will be considered vacation for education establishment, the government said, and should be used to organised teaching remotely.

“Two weeks is a vacation, and over these two weeks, we need to get prepared, if necessary, to organise the education process in some other way, remotely or in some other forms,” Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

The government also decided to ban all indoor public events as of Friday, and only up to 100 people are allowed to attend open-air events.

Organisers are told to ensure that at least one-metre distances can be maintained between people. No events for the elderly will be allowed.

While not ordering to cancel sporting events, the government said they must be organised without audiences.

All cultural, leisure, sports and entertainment establishments will be closed for two weeks.

People will also be banned from travelling to and from coronavirus risk zones: China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Italy.

Travelling to other risk-zones – Iran, France, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong – is not forbidden, but people are advised against it.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has suggested allowing flights from Italy to Lithuania this week so that Lithuanians can return to the country.

People arriving from risk countries will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Read more: Flights cancelled from Lithuania to Copenhagen, Istanbul, Vienna, London

Government also underlined that people who fail to comply with instructions from law enforcement officers would face prison terms of up to three years.

According to Interior Minister Tamašunienė, internal border controls have been stepped up as for Wednesday and vans with non-Lithuanian license plates will be subjected to checks. People returning form skiing trips will also face tougher controls.

In necessary, the army will be involved to control the situation in the country, the government has decided.

Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka has assured that the financial system “is fully capable of withstanding challenges related to the spread of Covid-19”.

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