As Lithuania's Klaipėda is preparing for its annual city festival, growing rates of coronavirus infections raise concern.
Klaipėda, Lithuania's third biggest city on the Baltic coast, currently has the highest infection rate in the country.
On Tuesday, the 14-day infection rate in Klaipėda was 108.7 new cases per 100,000 people, three times higher than the national average (34.3).
Raimundas Grigaliūnas, head of the Klaipėda chapter of the National Public Health Centre (NVSC), says 12 new infection clusters were confirmed in the coastal region on Tuesday, half of them in the city itself.
“According to latest data, we have detected some 130 mutations [of the coronavirus] among the infected people. There are also around 20 cases of the delta variant in the Klaipėda region,” Grigaliūnas told LRT.lt.
This comes as Klaipėda is preparing for the Sea Festival this weekend, the city's biggest annual event drawing thousands of people from across the country.
Grigaliūnas says that people walking in the old town of Klaipėda does not present a higher risk of infection.
“The main problem are the events where people will be standing close to one another for more than 15–20 minutes,” says Grigaliūnas. “If there's someone with an infection, there's a possibility to catch the virus standing next to them.”
Klaipėda Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas has commented that it is too late to cancel the festival.
“The Sea Festival must happen, though we are not welcoming unvaccinated people, those who are a danger to themselves and to others,” he told BNS.
“There would have to be an extreme situation for us to cancel or postpone [the festival],” he added.
According to Grubliauskas, however, the city cannot check that every visitor coming to Klaipėda is vaccinated. “Be your own inspector,” he said.
Meanwhile, the organisers assure that safety will be a priority. Moreover, there will be two mobile vaccination sites where people will be able to get vaccine shots without pre-registration.
“We are holding consultations with the National Public Health Centre every day and all events will be held only outdoors,” Liutauras Galinis, head of Klaipėdos Šventės, said in a statement, adding that none of the events would be longer than two hours, as per government recommendations.
“While organising the concerts, our main focus was on managing the flows of people. Different concerts and other events are scheduled simultaneously at various places in the city, so that crowds are dispersed as widely as possible,” according to Galinis.