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2021.11.30 09:41

Lithuania's Covid pass checkers bear the brunt of pandemic resentment

Kristina Karlonė, LRT TV2021.11.30 09:41

Security guards who are checking immunity certificates at Lithuania's supermarkets and shopping malls have to deal with abuses from resentful shopper every day, albeit much less often than in early autumn.

Since mid-September, shoppers have had to present the so-called opportunity pass (Galimybių pasas) or its European equivalent to enter most shops in Lithuania. From December 28, the rule will also apply to children over 12.

In most places, the certificates are checked by security guards. One of them, Žydrūnas Paškevičius, starts his 12-hour shift in the Akropolis shopping mall in Kaunas at 08:00.

He scans hundreds of barcodes and says not a day passes without someone expressing dissatisfaction with the policy, including with insults and swearing.

“There are some 20-30 disgruntled people each day,” he tells LRT TV. “They try to convince me they're right, ask me why I'm standing there and so on. They call me names, like snake and suchlike.”

Read more: Shopper shoots security guard after told to put on a face mask

During the several hours when LRT reporters were observing Žydrūnas' work, three people were stopped from entering the shopping mall.

Two of them could not present the certificate because their phones ran out of battery.

“I'll charge my phone a little and then I'll pass, since I work here,” said one of them.

One more visitor could not locate the certificate on his phone. “I have downloaded it, but it disappeared,” he said. “Well, I hope I find it.”

One more woman presented a hard copy of the pass, but it had expired. Security guards accompanied her to a nearby pharmacy to print out a new one.

There are cases when people clearly use someone else's document.

“If there's a man who looks 30, but the certificate shows a date of birth in 1949, then perhaps he took his grandad's pass,” says Evaldas Kasperavičius of the security firm Eurocash1.

As of this month, visitors are also required to wear medical masks or respirators instead of just any face coverings. Some need to be reminded of the new rule.

In exceptional cases, security guards call the policy to deal with unruly people.

Read more: Lithuania changes mask-wearing rules – what you need to know

“Some are forcing their way in, saying: I'm going in and there's nothing you can do,” says Kasperavičius. “We always warn about the liability they are facing, but not everyone understands.”

Last month, a man shot a security guard in a leg when the latter tried to stop him from entering a supermarket in Vilnius without the immunity certificate.

According to psychologist Visvaldas Legkauskas, of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, people often project their resentment about the government's pandemic policy onto the security guards.

“Hate needs a face – and since you can't unload on [Prime Minister Ingrida] Šimonytė, you unload on a guard,” he says.

However, security guards say most people have gotten used to the requirement and conflicts have become rarer.

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