COVID Update – April 22

Bars and cafes in Vilnius. / D. Umbrasas/LRT

Missing Supplies

On April 22, the Lithuanian Health Ministry turned to law-enforcement bodies over missing personal protective equipment (PPE) worth 912,000 euros. The missing PPE are part of a 24-million-euro order from China, according to Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys. The order is missing almost 850,000 items – goggles, medical caps and masks, and disposable gowns and gloves, an amount filling about 20 railroad cars.

According to Jurgita Grebenkovienė, the chancellor of the Health Ministry, the PPE delivery was organized by the Transport Ministry which had to distribute the goods to the healthcare sector. Health Emergency Situations Centre staff discovered the discrepancy between the quantity of goods in the contract and that in the delivery certificates. Former health minister, Aurelijus Veryga, said he knows nothing about the missing PPE. Lietuvos Paštas (Lithuanian Post) claims it distributed all PPE shipments received from China during the first lockdown, according to the country’s Transport Ministry.

New Cases

Lithuania has registered 1,344 new coronavirus infections, the highest number since mid-January. Fourteen people have died over the last 24 hours. A total of 3,818 people have died from Covid-19 in Lithuania so far. The overall number of deaths directly or indirectly related to the coronavirus has reached 7,724. Lithuania’s 14-day coronavirus infection rate currently stands at 528.6 per 100,000 people, and the portion of positive tests over the past seven days stands at 6.1%.

The number of people hospitalized in Lithuania with Covid-19 continues to rise, particularly in the regions of Vilnius and Kaunas. General and ICU beds in the Vilnius-Alytus Covid-19 region are currently occupied to a similar level as last December, the height of the second wave, while occupancy in the Kaunas-Marijampolė region is comparable to early November, according to the latest report. The number of hospitalized patients in other regions remains low.

A total of 1,190 Covid-19 patients are currently being treated in Lithuanian hospitals, 125 of them in intensive care units.

The government notes that Covid-19 testing volumes are increasing, too, with the number of PCR, pooled-sample PCR and rapid antigen tests now exceeding 140,000 per week, almost 50% more than during the peak of infections last winter.

Healthcare and social workers, over 70% of whom currently have immunity to Covid-19, are now the only groups in which vaccinations have a significant impact on the infection rate, according to a press release. The growth of positive cases among education workers and people aged 65 years and over – the groups where the immunization rate has only recently crossed 50% – is somewhat slower than in the rest of the population, but the effect has not been as strong as that among medical and social workers so far.

Overall, 237,950 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Lithuania since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest statistics. The coronavirus-related death toll has reached 7,724. A total of 594,331 people in Lithuania have been vaccinated at least once so far and 331,227 have been given two shots.

Reopenings Not Profitable

In the five months of down-time, owners of small bars have lost some 100,000-200,000 euros of income each, according to Raimondas Pranka, head of Lithuania’s Association of Bars and Cafes. And although reservations are coming in, some bars and restaurants are still considering whether to bring staff back and reopen. The limit on working hours, allowing places to open until 9 pm, is also a challenge. According to the quarantine loosening rules, catering establishments will be allowed to operate between 7am and 9pm.

Only two clients will be allowed to sit at a table, more only if they are from the same household. Tables will also be spaced two metres apart. Thus reopening patios may not solve owners’ financial problems. If a restaurant needs to serve 20 people to stay in the black, it will now be only allowed to serve eight.

According to data published by the Baltic News Service, Vilnius has issued 321 permits for outdoor cafes, compared to 445 in 2020, and Kaunas has issued 60, compared to 70 in 2020.

Other Restrictions Lifted

The Lithuanian government has agreed to relax lockdown restrictions for guided tours, amusement parks and prison visits. Economy Minister Aušrinė Armonaitė proposed to allow guided tours in groups of up to ten people. She also suggested permitting amusement parks to reopen, provided that they let in no more than ten people at a time or ensure 50 square metres of space per visitor.

The government now also allows prison visits by people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19. The new rule will take effect on May 3. Justice Minister Evelina Dobrovolska noted that some inmates have not seen their relatives for a year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        With news from