Latvia toughens COVID-19 restrictions amid virus uptick

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RIGA, July 10 (Xinhua) -- At an extraordinary meeting on Friday, the Latvian government decided to toughen COVID-19 containment rules for cafes, bars and restaurants amid an increase in new coronavirus cases in the Baltic country, local media reported.

The number of people allowed to sit at one table is now limited to four indoors and eight outdoors, and all cafes and restaurants, which until now were allowed to stay open until 2 a.m., are now required to close by 12 midnight.

The ministers also agreed to relaunch a cross-sectoral coordination group tasked with drafting proposals for further coronavirus restrictions if warranted. The task force was dissolved after Latvia lifted a state of emergency in June.

Several ministers also called for stricter rules for people arriving in Latvia from abroad. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, for instance, suggested revising the rules for holders of temporary residence permits, arguing that people have been arriving in Latvia in large numbers lately from countries with high levels of COVID-19 incidence.

Rinkevics also called for enhancing coordination among the three Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) regarding COVID-19 restrictions and control.

"If we have to return to more severe restrictions, we will," said Health Minister Ilze Vinkele. She said that over the past couple of weeks Latvia's 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population has risen to 2.8 from 0.7.

Latvia has recorded a notable increase in new confirmed COVID-19 cases this week. While over the past four weeks there were 15 new cases per week on average, the number of new cases detected this week alone reached 41 by Friday.

The uptick results from outbreaks linked to several restaurants in Riga, the capital city, and the seaside resort of Jurmala, and to a high-school graduation party, the health authorities said. Enditem

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