Lithuania's government has indicated it may lift restrictions on some non-grocery retailers and services, such as beauty salons and hairdressers, as of next week. The final decision is to be made on Wednesday.
Under the plan, only shops with direct street access and smaller than 300 square metres would be allowed to reopen, however. Businesses – both retailers and services – will also have to ensure at least 20 square metres of floor space per customer.
The plan was presented by Economy Minister Aušrinė Armonaitė on Monday and other members of the cabinet agreed to it “in principle”.
“The government will still have to make the final decision. I know that many have been waiting for this, but so far these are only proposed changes,” Armonaitė said after the cabinet meeting.
There are also proposals to reopen outdoor markets and allow outdoor group exercises.
Under the lockdown introduced in mid-December, only grocery shops are allowed to service customers, while services that involve more than 15 minutes of physical contact are not allowed.
The government was expected to lift some of the restrictions on businesses last week, but decided to wait.
Return to school within weeks
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė also said that the government would decide to reopen schools in “the coming weeks”.
“We would like to try broad-scale testing in schools – and we're planning to do it,” Šimonytė said on Monday. “We're discussing special testing within school communities.”
Primary school students would be the first to return to classrooms, she suggested, as well as final-year students preparing for graduation exams.
“This is, I think, a matter of the coming few weeks,” she said.
Earlier on Monday, the government's commission on extreme situations suggested basing gradual lifting of restrictions on coronavirus infection rates.
It also suggested a two-tier lockdown, which would allow municipalities with fewer cases to reopen sooner.
“Relaxations are proposed in the following areas: [contacts between] households, healthcare, training, non-formal education, catering, retail and services,” Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė said after the commission's meeting.
“Importantly, the planned resumption of activities will come with requirements to test workers in the relaxed fields,” she added.
According to Bilotaitė, concrete steps would be made according to infection rates and the share of positive coronavirus testing results. The situation would be assessed every week.
“Every week, we will be closely watching the pandemic dynamic in the country, and if we see that the morbidity rates are good, we will make certain decision on lifting restrictions,” the minister was quoted in a statement.
Lithuania's 14-day morbidity rate is now below 500 per population of 100,000. Some 2.8 percent of the population have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.