News2020.03.13 13:31

Closing borders a possibility, Lithuanian president says

BNS 2020.03.13 13:31

Closing Lithuania's borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is a possibility that can be considered, according to the country's president.

“Border closures might be considered among options,” Gitanas Nausėda told reporters after a meeting of the State Defence Council on Friday.

Read more: Coronavirus measures in Lithuania: what you need to know

The president also called on people not to panic.

“Really, do not succumb to panic and try to limit your movement as much as possible. Stop listening to false prophets, especially on social media,” Nausėda said.

On Friday, the parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs decided to propose that the government close the country's borders to prevent the coronavirus spread.

This follows a series of measures announced by the government on Thursday which include closing down schools for at least two weeks and banning all indoor public events.

Shoring up the economy

President Nausėda also assured that the government would take action to mitigate economic effects of the coronavirus.

According to him, economists estimate that Lithuania's economy may slow down, but should avoid a recession.

“Based on various estimates, our GDP growth slowdown might range from 0.5 to 1.5 [points], depending on how we will manage to fight this virus,” Nausėda said. “I would like to underline that it's not a recession. The economy continues to grow, but that growth might be slower than expected before.”

The government should come up with a plan of action for the economy next week, he said.

“European leaders are perfectly aware that an impact on the economy is inevitable, and now we have to speak about ways to mitigate that impact,” the Lithuanian president said.

More public spending and cutting corporate tax for certain sectors of the economy are among the possibilities, Nausėda said.

‘Harsh but adequate measures’

The president also said he supported the anti-coronavirus measures put in place by the government.

“I can reiterate my support for the measures that were announced yesterday. They are harsh, but certainly adequate for the situation,” he said.

Read more: Lithuanian government orders school closures and travel restrictions to prevent coronavirus

Nausėda also advised people to follow official recommendations, such as social distancing, and refer to official sources for information rather than on social networks.

“We live in an open space with a lot of people-to-people contacts and a lot of movement. The right thing to do now is to minimise that movement and those contacts,” he said.

Lithuania has confirmed six cases of coronavirus as of Friday afternoon.

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