LRT English Newsletter – March 20, 2020
The novel coronavirus has reached Europe, including Lithuania, with full force. As the number of deaths in Europe has now exceeded those in China, we look at how the nationwide quarantine in Lithuania affects you.
During our day-to-day coverage, please follow our ‘live updates’ tag to keep track of the news as we get them.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING TO COME BACK:
Lithuania closed its border on March 16 to foreigners and anyone coming back from abroad must self-isolate for two weeks. Meanwhile, a number of options to return (or leave) remain:
If you’re Lithuanian: the government has been organising repatriation flights from Bali, France, the Netherlands, the UK, and Warsaw, Poland. The latest information as of Thursday evening, here.
If you’re from Estonia or Latvia: many of the measures also apply to you, whether you’re a local citizen or a resident in the Baltic states. Same as with the escorted convoys through Poland, citizens from the Baltic states can apply for most, if not all, repatriation measures enacted by the Lithuanian government. Latest information on flight and ferry registration (as of Thursday evening), here and here. Alternatively, keep an eye on official government websites.
If you’re from abroad: only foreigners that have a valid residence permit, as well as truck drivers, diplomats, NATO enlisted and support personnel as well as their family members are allowed to enter Lithuania as of March 16. For the full list of measures on what to do if you’re staying, transiting, or leaving, find here.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING TO LEAVE:
Although Lithuanian citizens and residents have been prohibited from leaving the country, there are no restrictions for foreigners – mind you, most other countries have also closed their borders.
Lithuania has extended the so-called humanitarian corridor for foreigners to transit via Lithuania. “We are extending transit until [March] 23. I think this will allow sufficient time [for foreign nationals] to return, and we have to close [our borders],” Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. More info here.
Here are the key restrictions during the nationwide quarantine that began on Monday – and what they mean for the daily life across the country. Scenes of parks and children playgrounds full of people may soon come to an end, however. The police said gatherings in public spaces pose a risk, and pledged to make “authoritative decisions”.
The health minister also said the police are ready to restrict movement of people within the country if a specific region becomes severely affected by the virus.
The government announced a sweeping economy package to shore up jobs and finances. The details are still being clarified, but here’s what we know so far.
– Applications for subsidies and support will be accepted from April 5 at the Lithuanian Labour Exchange.
– Self-employed (“individuali veikla”) subsidies for March will be paid by April 15. Individuals are entitled to 257 euros per month, counting from the start of the quarantine.
– Labour Minister Linas Kukuraitis urged employees not to sign any documents or accept unpaid leave, and advised to consult with the national Labour Inspectorate if the employer is particularly insistent.
– Adults in families with children, elderly people, and people with disabilities who need supervision, are entitled to government support. They should turn to their medical institution for the appropriate procedure.
– Banks and other credit institutions will have to defer loan payments for at least three months, if people have lost more than a third of their income.
– Businesses that did not have to stop their activities due to quarantine, but were affected in other ways, can expect a subsidy of 60 percent of their employees' salaries.
– Another subsidy is available to businesses that had to completely stop their activities and would cover 90 percent of the payroll.
In both cases, subsidies would not exceed the minimum monthly salary in Lithuania, which now stands at 607 euros. Employers would be required to cover 10 or 40 percent in addition to that amount.
Here (and here) are the list of measures part of the 2.5-billion-euro package approved by the government this week.
Meanwhile, as some prices have increased, the government said it could enact controls to stop any profiteering off the crisis. The Health Ministry also instructed to limit sales at the pharmacies to prevent hoarding.
CLAP, PRAY, DANCE
In a change of tone, the Catholic Church has invited the faithful for nationwide prayers every day at 20:00. Before that, a public initiative calls on everyone to open their windows at 19:00 and clap for the country's frontline medical force. Some people have also put a Eurovision twist on the initiative.
The Lithuanian society has also mobilised in times of crisis. Here’s the first of several more stories to come later this week.
If you exhibit any of the Covid-19 symptoms (fever, coughing, difficulty to breath) within two weeks of travelling or you have been in close contact with someone who was confirmed to have Covid-19, immediately call 1808 and follow the instructions provided by the medics. Do not go to the hospital yourself. Isolate yourself and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
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Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas
Edited by Justinas Šuliokas