2020.03.23 09:48

Coronavirus: 160 confirmed cases, quarantine to be extended

updated, BNS 2020.03.23 09:48

Seventeen new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Lithuania, taking the total to 160, the Health Ministry said on Monday evening.

Some of the new cases were people who recently returned from abroad, and others, including a member of the medical staff at Vilnius' Šeškinė Polyclinic, contracted the virus from an infected person.

Meanwhile, the ongoing nationwide quarantine is set to be extended, and the two-week self-isolation guidelines will become mandatory, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Monday.

Read more: Coronavirus: opposition calls for military to take over crisis management

The government previously asked those returning from abroad to self-quarantine for two weeks. However, some people were treating the quarantine as a "holiday" and were proceeding to "gather, socialise and 'overrun' shopping centres," Skvernelis said in a post on Facebook.

Therefore, "quarantine conditions will be tightened, including liability for failure to comply," the minister added.

The Lithuanian Justice Ministry drafted legislative amendments to impose stricter controls, Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius confirmed to BNS on Monday.

Under the draft amendments, people who fail to self-isolate after returning from abroad would face criminal charges and up to a year in jail. Police would be able to impose fines for minor violations.

The package was approved by the Cabinet in an informal meeting on Monday and will be formally submitted to the government on Wednesday before tabled to the Seimas next week, according to Jankevičius.

"Police, the State Border Guard Service and public security officials could punish people who do not comply with the quarantine requirements," he told BNS.

Fines would range from 500 to 1,500 euros for private individuals and from 1,500 to 6,000 euros for businesses. A first-time violator could get away with a warning.

Currently, only public health specialists may levy fines for quarantine violations.

The ministry proposes to amend the Criminal Code to allow bringing criminal charges against people who fail to comply with a written order not to leave their home, for example, after returning from abroad. If convicted, they would face up to a year in prison.

Currently, anyone coming to Lithuania from abroad is required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. All others are subject to a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than five people.

Health authorities strongly recommend that all people, especially the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, to stay home if possible.

Lithuanians returning from abroad to be quarantined at municipal premises

Lithuanians returning from abroad will have to be isolated at designated municipal premises to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Monday.

"All people returning to Lithuania – and still several thousands of our citizens are set to return – will have to immediately be put in quarantine at premises designated by municipalities," Veryga told LRT RADIO.

Read more: Charter flights repatriate Lithuanians from Paris

The decision was taken after some returning Lithuanians failed to comply with self-isolation rules, according to the minister.

Veryga will also order shops to limit the flow of people to ensure social distancing.

The speed at which the virus will spread in the country will only depend on the public's awareness and understanding, he said.

Testing kits flown from Belgium by Lithuanian Air Force plan

Meanwhile, 5,000 testing reagents for the coronavirus were delivered to Lithuania by a Lithuanian Air Force transport plane on Sunday night.

Read more: Coronavirus: US firm to produce test kits in Lithuania

Lithuania is awaiting some 200,000 testing kits, but the delivery was delayed to a disruption in the global supply chain. Therefore, the 5,000 testing kits that will last a week were delivered from Belgium by the Lithuanian air force, the government said.

Medial supplies, reagents to reach Lithuania from China later this week

Five planes will bring testing reagents and protective euipment from China by the end of the week, Lithuanian Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevič said on Sunday.

Respirators and other equipment should reach Lithuania no earlier than in the middle of the week, and the testing reagents should be delivered on Friday.

Read more: Lithuanian president to ask South Korea for support

"We are now working on Chinese logistics, [...] as the goods that have been ordered are different regions across th country," the minister told BNS on Sunday.

According to Narkevič, some shipments will reach Lithuania via Frankfurt.

"The first shipment will leave the Chinese airport on March 26, land in Frankfurt, [it] will then be loaded onto another plane, and it will then arrive in Vilnius late on the same day. We will be able to distribute the goods across Lithuania overnight," Narkevič said.

This shipment will only include protective equipment, as the testing reagents will arrive on other planes, he said.

Narkevič said another four flights are scheduled, including two on March 27 and two on March 28.

The testing reagents will be bought from China, the UK and South Korea, the Health Ministry previously told BNS