2020.03.23 14:33

Coronavirus: opposition calls for military to take over crisis management

BNS, LRT.lt2020.03.23 14:33

On Monday, the parliamentary opposition called on the country’s defence minister or the military to coordinate the country's response to the crisis. Currently, the nationwide emergency operation centre is headed by Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga.

In response, Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said the role of the military will grow if the crisis deepends, but the government should manage the country's response.

"The [...] military is primarily a supporting institution in the emergency situation," Karoblis told reporters on Monday, adding that operational officers and other specialists will be sent to the operations centre.

Over a hundred troops are now working in a supporting role at the country’s airports, ports and borders. Meanwhile, the air force is carrying transport flights.

Karoblis said on Monday that the government and authorised institutions should manage emergency situations, and not the military.

“It should be done at the level of the government or the prime minister," Karoblis said. The troops could help ensure public order and isolate certain areas, if the crisis deepens, he added.

The Lithuanian military has reduced the number of exercises. Conscripts are also not allowed to go home on weekends,

Some serving personnel have been put in isolation after a Dutch soldier stationed in Rukla, central Lithuania, and a civilian employee tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

Lithuanian president dismisses proposal as ‘unconstitutional’

“Even under emergency conditions, [serving] military officers and people from paramilitary services cannot be in charge of civilian institutions, because it is unconstitutional,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda told reporters on Monday.

"Changing [the leadership] means experimenting with public health, and I don't think the authorities can afford it now," he said.

Nausėda, however, criticised the health minister’s handling of the crisis despite the positive initial steps.

According to the president, the State Emergency Operations Center under Veryga’s leadership showed a lack of competency when procuring protective equipment and testing kits.

"The emergency management center needs to be reinforced,” he said. "We need to improve [the ability] to procure medical supplies.”

The president said he plans to meet with Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis and the chief of defence on Tuesday to discuss the military's assistance in managing the crisis.

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