The Lithuanian public is too polarised over Covid-19 vaccination, President Gitanas Nausėda says, and the government's policies are partly to blame.
“The attitudes towards the vaccination and the methods for speeding it up are too polarised,” President Nausėda said in an interview with LRT TV on Thursday.
After Lithuania's vaccination effort started to stall in early summer, the government may have overdid with “feverish” and “forced” push to speed it up, according to Nausėda.
“We went over the top with mandatory vaccination, which is not mandatory per se, but the incentives were put in place and scare tactics were deployed, such as limiting access to some essential services, banning [unvaccinated people] from public transport,” Nausėda said.
The government has decided that, from mid-September, a number of services, such as non-essential shops and public events, will only be accessible with immunity certificates. The initial suggestion also included public transport and non-essential medical services, but these were later scrapped. There are no plans to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory.
Last week, a big rally took place outside the parliament building in protest of the measures. The rally turned into riots when several hundred protesters clashed with the police.
“Today I am following with concern what is happening in the public arena and on the streets, namely, outside the parliament,” Nausėda said, in reference to the August 10 events. “I certainly condemn any effort to solve these problems with stones, this is unacceptable in a democratic society and will not be tolerated. But denying it [the problems] and claiming that all the people at the rally are renegades and public enemies that need to be censured – that is too simplistic an approach.”
Nausėda added that opinion polls showed extreme polarisation about vaccination and “rather negative attitudes to the government's actions”. He called for a “dialogue” in order to lower the tensions.