LIVE FROM THE QUARANTINE. Briefly on covid-19 in Riga and Latvia. LAST UPDATED 09.06.20.

In order to keep you informed constantly during the coronavirus lockdown in Latvia, we created a separate article with lots of official info about statistics on covid-19 cases, brief look into political statements, and changes in public realm mostly in Riga. This post was updated every day until 8 May and at least once per week until the end of lockdown in Latvia on 9 June.
CURRENT UPDATES include:
❗latest statistics+graphs before lifting the emergency status.


STATISTICS NOW

As on 9 June, there were 1,089 infected in total found since the first official contraction on 3 March in Latvia, and after testing 120,052 individuals (suggested testing limit would be 1,200 - 1,300 per day, but was often 2000 - 3000 after the extension of lockdown since 15 April). As on 9 June, Latvia never left TOP 10 lowest number of cases per 1M inhabitants in Europe, while it only reached 1,000 infected on 17 May - 75 days after the first known case.

At first, the number of the infected vs the tested varied from 2.7 - 3.8 %. In mid-March the percentage steadily decreased to be around 2.7 - 2.9 % constantly. Since 25 March, the total percentage was just 2.1 - 2.7 % positive cases after privately run test results were also published. Since 18 April, the total rate is only 1.5 - 2% since lockdown started. Since 1 May, the percentile has been only 1.1 - 1.5 %. On 2 June, the number of positive tests reached it's lowest at 1 % and was below it since then.

Infected cases VS tested (SPKC; 27.05.2020).

On 1 April, the percentage briefly jumped along with the largest amount of positive results per day ever - 48 individuals. The reason was that, on 31 March, 27 infected were found in a suburban male shelter in Riga run by an Evangelical Christian organisation "Zilais Krusts". The shelter with its inhabitants and staff was in quarantine and guarded by the police; the number of the infected reached 30 on 3 April. On 17 April, all the infected at the shelter were free of the virus, however 23 new cases briefly appeared in few next following days.

The largest amount of tests carried out per day was 3250 (on 29 April). Until the beginning of April, Latvia was persistently ranked among TOP 20 in the world by the number of tests performed per 1M inhabitants. The country, despite relatively high testing rates, only left TOP 30 almost 100 days since the first tests were carried out in the country, and is now placed 32nd.

Since 31 March, due to the smallest amount of people applying for tests since the beginning of lockdown then, family doctors could finally forward patients with respiratory infections immediately to covid-19 outdoor testing tents for free. Right after Easter (14 April) the number of tests carried out again was so low it repeated the pre-lockdown results - only 242. Again the target groups were broadened with any shop staff its management can direct to carry out tests.

Since 13 May, less than 30 persons were stationed daily with not more than 3 among them in critical condition (all numbers relatively stable along the whole lockdown period). On 9 June, it was just about a dozen with 794 individuals recovered, making it more than 70 % of the total infected already.

Cumulative growth of the number of infected divided by "active", "cured", and "fatal" cases (SPKC; 27.05.2020).

On 3 April, the very first official death WITH covid-19 was registered in Latvia - it took one month since the first contraction in the country (making the country one of the last in Europe without the deceased). It was a 99-year-old woman stationed at hospital in Riga on 27 March with other severe complications. Such scenario would play out every time someone died - elderly people with other chronic illnesses.

On 7 April, a second fatality occurred at hospital in Riga when a 75-year-old man from Jelgava died at similar conditions. His infection was epidemiologically connected to an event taking place in the town when 6 people were found infected at a funeral home in late March.

On 11 April, a third death as announced at hospital in Riga aged 54. It was Rolands Tjarve, a famous media expert and university lecturer, who also became the youngest to die from covid-19. On 12 April the death toll reached five - one person aged 80 - 85 died at the same hospital, the other in Valmiera aged 85 - 90.

Since then, the death toll was replenished, including several pending autopsies being confirmed. As on 9 June, the fatality vs infected rate is has never surpassed 2,5 % in Latvia. Until mid-May more than 85% of the deceased were older than 60, as on 9 June, it was more than 70 % with no one deceased below the age of 50. 70-75 % average among all were males. Turned out that death rates during lockdown were still lower than during the same period last year.

The country has approximately 1.91 million inhabitants, and the positive cases reached 56.3 per 100,000 inhabitants and 26 fatalities as on 9 June with Lithuania and Estonia having 72 and 69 deaths respectively. Latvia never left the TOP 5 in Europe among the countries with lowest covid-19 death rate per 1M inhabitants during the whole lockdown period.



Until 31 March, only around 23 % of the infected in Latvia were aged 50 and older (raising by 1 % daily from a constant 16 % since mid-March). Since then, greatly because of the "Zilais Krusts" shelter discovery, it rapidly raised up to 30 % and has continued to grow. Since 18 April, the rate would be 40 % until it was surpassed on 1 May and been stable at 42 % ever since.

Since 15 May, the percentile of aged 50 and older briefly reached it's highest ever at 43 % when 21 new cases (among them 4 workers) were detected at the Social Care Centre "Mārsnēni" 1.5 hrs drive from Riga. It was the second largest outbreak since "Zilais Krusts" male shelter in the capital. On 23 May, the number of the infected at "Mārsnēni" reached 44.

More than a half confirmed cases until 30 March were aged 20 - 39. Since then it drifted down a percent per day and was constant around 33 - 36 % since mid-April. From 15 - 16 April, the 40 - 49 age group briefly reached 20 % of the infected for a first time, but has been around 18 % before and after. In total, there was a close balance between infected men and women (with men leading by negative 2 - 6 %) with the largest gap in the 60 - 69 and 30 - 39 groups led by men, and 80+ lead by women.

On 20 March, 95 % of the infected came from abroad during the repatriation (mainly from Spain, UK, Italy, Austria, France and Germany). On 28 March, it was only 60 % with 30 % infections already occurring in Latvia. Some 6 - 7 % were untraceable transmission cases discovered for the first time on 25 March.

The infected per age and gender. "Sievietes - women" and "Vīrieši - men" (SPKC; 27.05.2020).

More than a half of the infected were located in Riga with extra 10 - 15 % within its metropolitan area (Jūrmala, Ķekava, Salaspils, Mārupe, Stopiņi) and few dozen cases in Liepāja, Valmiera, and Jelgava. On 26 March, the first infected medical staff was found in Latvia (in Rēzekne). For a month or so, there were several others declared infected each day since then (including paramedics and dentists). The number reached more than 60 by 15 April (as well as several cops).


Positive covid-19 cases per county in real-time (SPKC; created and embedded since 27.03.2020). 

Since March 31, "COVID-19 projections assuming full social distancing through May 2020" mathematical model has been provided by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME; USA). According to their data, Latvia will reach its peak resource use on 25 April (229 beds, including 52 ICUs, and 44 invasive ventilators needed, but with no resource shortage) and the peak in daily covid-19 related deaths will follow in 29 April (8 deceased that day with up to 36 possible). Finally, by 4 August, there could be 125 covid-19 deaths total in Latvia and 23 fatalities until 1 May (according to the graph). Needless to say, each graph has an enormous shaded area that indicates uncertainty, thus making the results not quite scientifically valid.

The results:
  • On 25 April, the peak resource use in Latvia was almost 6 times less beds and almost 9 times less ICUs than predicted by IHME. Their next peak was projected to come on 4 May at 196 beds, including 63 ICUs, and 56 ventilators needed;
  • On 29 April, two deaths were registered which is 4 times less, and the total death toll reached 15 which is around 2,5 times less than predicted by IHME. Now their next peak is projected to come on 15 May at 12 deaths and 59 in total;
  • On 1 May, there were 16 deaths which is 31 % less than predicted by IHME. Now their next peak is projected to come on 29 June with 240 deaths;
  • On 4 May, the second peak resource use in Latvia was again more than 6 times less beds and already more than 15 times less ICU than predicted by IHME;
  • On 15 May, there were no deaths in Latvia and the total fatalities registered was more than 3 times less than predicted by IHME;
  • It is clearly now known the IHME analysis have proven itself being totally useless when speaking about Latvia, and cannot be reliable.

Deep Knowledge Group, "a consortium of commercial and non-profit organizations active on many fronts in the realm of DeepTech and Frontier Technologies", have been working on their "covid-19 Safety Countries Ranking". By using more than 70 parameters (later  130) in quarantine efficiency, monitoring and detection, government management efficiency, and emergency treatment readiness, Latvia was ranked 39th in the world as on 12 April. The country's score was 552.20, whereas Israel, placed 1st, had the score of 632.32.


Their next ranking on 18 May showed that Latvia has stepped up to the 31st place. Although the ranking came to light by the beginning of June.

Also SUTD Data-Driven Innovation Lab in Singapore published their Data-Driven estimations of the coronavirus end date in Latvia. As on 27 April, it foresaw 5 May being the date when 97 % of the virus is eliminated with its total disruption on 17 June.

GOVERNANCE DURING LOCKDOWN

On 10 March, the first official letter from the Ministry of Health regarding threats of coronavirus was sent to a large portion of residents via governmental electronic declaration or registration systems managed by State Revenue Service (VID), Road Traffic Safety Directorate (CSDD), and E-Class as well via mobile phones.

From 12 March until 14 April, a first temporary national lockdown was been announced in Latvia. On 7 April, the emergency situation was officially extended until 12 May. On 7 May, it was extended until 9 June with multiple restrictions softened.

The lockdown demanded all the repatriating or infected to stay in quarantine for 14 days (those in question are regularly checked by the police), and others not ill to practice self-isolation and physical distancing. Some emergency measures until the final extension on 7 May included:
  • staying at home when possible;
  • avoiding public spaces;
  • keeping a personal distance larger than 2 m when in public (Since 29 March, only two people or family, or household members can be closer than 2 metres in public. Weddings are possible at "2+2" with the couple and witnesses, funerals are possible only outside by keeping distance.);
  • disinfecting or washing hands for at least 20 seconds on hourly basis or more often;
  • not touching face;
  • maintaining physical activities (cycling, yoga, lonely hikes or running suggested);
  • sneezing and coughing in elbow or a tissue;
  • immediate disposing of the tissue;
  • and others (full list).
After lockdown was extended until 9 June, these measures got softened:
  • public, private, sports and religious gatherings and activities up to 25 people in one place is now allowed (respecting the 2m distance);
  • events inside can not be longer than 3 hours, there are no limits when outside;
  • no limits for events with people in cars;
  • face masks are obligatory in any public transport;
  • last-year pupils allowed to visit school and prepare for exams;
  • professional and sports schools allowed to open;
  • kindergartens open for 5- and 6-year-olds;
  • recreation and entertainment facilities (including restaurants and shopping centres) can be open daily from 7:00 - 24:00;
  • travelling allowed within the Baltic States;
  • flights to several countries could be resumed from mid-May (follow news for more info);
  • more to follow.
The administrative monetary penalty for disobeying two main emergency measures of quarantine and distancing in public was 10 - 350 euros until 31 March. Since then it grew up to 2,000 euros and up to 5000 euros for legal entities.

From the beginning of lockdown until 24 April, the police carried out 51,864 preventive checkups and started 756 administrative cases against the lockdown offenders (3 times more in the last two weeks than in the first three). More than 1,300 notices were issued for mostly ignoring gathering, physical distancing, and work restrictions or violating self-isolation and quarantine regulations.

On 10 April, a man born in 1989 incurred the first and only maximum fine - €2,000, for ignoring strict quarantine when being infected with the virus and leaving home for a car ride. He was so dumb to receive the same maximum fine few days later again for driving the car. On 8 April, another man in Alūksne received €1,000 fine for repeatedly ignoring physical distancing.

capital r, riga, capital riga, blog, covid-19, coronavirus, 2020
Keeping distance (Andrejs Strokins; 2020).

On 27 February, E. Gulbja Laboratorija were the first to announce they are open for testing, but it would cost €80.40. First free national covid-19 mobile outdoor testing tent was opened on 13 March in Riga with the second following on 17 March. The third is now available at Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital since 20 March.
An informative phone line has been created to answer questions related to covid-19 - please call 8345. When experiencing symptoms or returning to Latvia from abroad, reserve a test at the national mobile outdoor testing tent by calling 8303. Arrival without a reservation and by public transportation or on foot is strictly forbidden.
On 12 March, the government agreed on dedicating 1 billion euros to fighting the virus (10 % of annual budget). Most of the sum is meant to cover tax and credit holidays for businesses as well as covering sick notes. On 19 March, the support from the country reached more than 2 billion euros. Since 21 March, the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament were working remotely until the end of May.

On 24 March, the parliament accepted first plans to pay off premiums to medical personnel fighting the virus in March. It could mean up to +20 % per wage during the next two following months with up to +50 % to those fighting the virus on site for more than 88 hrs as paramedicals. By 27 May, some personnel did not yet receive their premiums.

Safe and sound on duty (Zane Anna; 2020).

Since lockdown, there were multiple repatriation trips initiated by the Ministry of Traffic and External Affairs, and carried out by ferries and planes from 15 March until 30 March. 2,276 Latvians in 21 flights returned from abroad, probably the same amount crossed borders themselves or by ferry. Turned out that many went straight home from the airport by city bus, thus exposing others to the potential virus. From 28 March until the end of lockdown, a separate bus traffic was organized for the arrivers.

Due to the extension of the emergency lockdown, there were a dozen or more new repatriation flights from across Europe mainly organized from 15 April until 6 May. The priority were people from different continents and those without various social guarantees.

The international airport of Riga was shut down since 17 March until mid-May along with borders and any other international travels. Estonia closed their border with Latvia on 15 March, Lithuania - a day later. On 29 March, the first AirBaltic flight was organized to and from Urumchi, China, with a delivery containing 900,000 face masks and 80,000 respirators. On 9 April, next flight took place and delivered around 1,000,000 face masks.

Since 13 March, it was forbidden to approach bus, trolley or tram drivers in Riga. No public transport tickets could be purchased on board, and discounts were revoked to most, including seniors, to limit the flow of people. Since it fell by 50 % by the end of March, the daily intensity of traffic was reduced by 20 %. Since 2 April, no minibus and express bus connections were available.

"Social distancing Latvian style" (Alise Tīfentāle; 2020).

Other operators nearby the capital began to practice the distancing soon after, e.g. Jūrmala. Since 27 March, only half the amount of tickets could be sold on intercity buses in Latvia.

Since the announcement of the emergency situation until 14 April (month later) the intensity of traffic on national roads decreased by 26 % average. The largest drop, even by 90% can be observed on main motorways leading to Lithuania. Main roads to Estonia faced around a 45 % drop.

Since 26 March, 140 pedestrian crossing buttons in Riga were turned off to avoid exchanging with the virus. Since 20 March, every playground and sports track in the capital was closed, and visiting them could end with administrative penalty. In mid-April, activists reached Riga City Council and Cabinet of Ministers with their pilot project to develop temporary cycling paths. The idea was to take up to 32 km of roads used less often by cars during lockdown. The idea never really materialized by 9 June.

The upcoming election of Riga City Council was postponed to 29 August. Voters will be obliged to wear a face mask. Real estate tax in for the first quarter was postponed until 9 June in the city.

On 24 March, the government announced there would be stoppage relief disbursed to 40 business sectors. Most of them are related to tourism, entertainment, catering, sports, and culture. The relief would cover 75 % of wages during the following months, but not more than EUR 700 per month. No taxes would be deducted.

Other sectors, not included fully or partially, were sceptical and criticized the decision. On 26 March, the government corrected their statement and promised to grant help to any business with at least 30 % turnover loss in March/April. There are exceptional cases for those with turnover loss at least 20 % already - if 10 % of returns are at least €500,000, average wage is at least €800, and more than €500,000 have been invested last year.

From 2 April, the self-employed, those on royalties, and micro-enterprises could also apply for the stoppage relief. For the former two, it would consist of 75 % from the Mandatory State Social Insurance Contributions paid in last two quarters. For the latter, it would consist of 50 % of their average income during identical period. The relief would cover two months from 14 March until 14 May, could only be disbursed if there was no other income, and would be not more than EUR 700 per month.
The "no income" condition made many angry due to most freelancers receiving tiny, yet some amounts monthly, thus automatically being stricken out the list. Multiple initiatives and letters to the Cabinet of Ministers were directed to.
As on 12 May, 46,714 relieves covered for 7,590 companies in total sum of EUR 17,494,320. 848 662 euro more were distributed to 2,677 self-employed. 3944 companies as well as 1,816 self-employed were turned down due to insufficient criteria. Most popular professions receiving relief were kitchen and café staff (cooks, waiters, bartenders, dishwashers) and shop staff (sellers, cashiers, shop-assistants, etc.).

In March, there was 7.2 % less tax income than planned, which was EUR 54,000,000 deficit. Thanks to the lucrative first two months of 2020, the scheduled budget plan was still +0.6 %. The largest loss (-20 %) was registered in excise tax, i.e., alcoholic substances (both domestic purchases as well as those crossing Estonian border that was closed). The next was various income taxes (-20 %) following up with VAT (-12 %).

Meanwhile, layoffs and redundancies (of them 25 collective cases)caused 3,898 new unemployment cases as on 6 April (since lockdown). The largest number came from the national flag carrier AirBaltic that will temporary layoff 400 out of its 1,600 employees from 14 April. As on 12 May, the unemployment rate in Latvia was 8,2 %. On 17 April, the unemployment rate was 7,5 % with 10,000 more job seekers since lockdown, 6.7 % on 1 April and 6.3 % on 1 March.

All events or gatherings larger than 50 people were cancelled and illegal, all museums, entertainment and event venues were closed, and all public establishments were ought to closed by 23:00 until the end of lockdown. Several Latvian movies and concerts were published online for free or reduced price to be viewed during this time.

Schools and universities were operating online (not kindergartens). Starting from 6 April, a special TV channel "Tava klase" was launched for educational processes. Children in primary schools are able to follow specially created audiovisual content every school-day morning until 29 May as well as older pupils. The whole programme would cost EUR 365,000 and would be distributed better than e-studies (several thousands of children still have no computer).

All religious spaces were locked to the public, but faced strictures, public condemnation, and visits by the police right after lockdown when several (mainly Russian Orthodox) parishes continued to practice the service on site, disobeying social distancing, and touching and kissing artifacts. A main church in Liepāja may have held an offline service on Easter for a group as large as 50 people (including the town mayor). Its minister quoted one of his colleagues, saying that a sermon online is like a "vegetarian sausage, non-alcoholic beer, or a rubber woman". The police began investigation on the wrongdoing.

On 24 March, it was officially announced that shopping centres must be closed on weekends during lockdown; some shops have spared special morning hours (8:00 - 10:00) for the elderly to do their groceries. Every shop would be equipped with disinfection substances at every entrance.

A virus encounter at Rimi store in March (Author unknown; 2020).

Majority of food and drink establishments in Riga were closed to the public and switched to individual home delivery or joined two food delivery platforms Wolt and Bolt (ironic names, right?). Since 26 March, banks in Latvia raised the limit for fast contactless payments to €50 in order to fight the usage of cash.

In mid-April, several laboratories in Riga provided the public with the very first data on covid-19 gene sequencing. For now it seemed that the virus most common in Latvia might have origins in China, Belgium, France, Germany, or Great Britain. At least 12 new mutations were also identified unique to Latvia.

On 25 May, it was clear that Latvia is to become one of the first countries in the world to launch a smartphone app using a new toolkit created by U.S. tech giants Apple and Alphabet's Google to help trace coronavirus infections. "Apturi Covid" (Stop Covid) app wass based on Bluetooth connections, and one of its functions would detect and warn if any users have been in contact with any of the ill for more than 15 minutes.

PEOPLE DURING LOCKDOWN

The atmosphere, despite mostly older people and men not taking precautions of distance, face touching and disinfection in shops, was rather positive. Many worked from home and had created #paliecmājās Facebook frame. Several amusicians published their songs recorded at home during the local #QuarantineChallenge since 19 March. On 30 March, MadCity Riga International happening of Urban Planning opened their Zoom online bar for one hour for everyone to participate and chat about everything.
Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre had been involved internationally in developing the vaccine for the whole March already. On 19 March, "Hackforce", the very first virtual hackathon in Latvia, gathered 28 teams with more than 800 people from 25 different countries worldwide. While scientists at Riga Technical University developed a mechanical lung ventilator, an idea called "Face-Shields" won the competition with a face shield to protect doctors and healthcare professionals from virus transmission trough air droplets, using 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC technology.
On 20 March, a volunteer movement "Paliec mājās" was launched. Its purpose was to provide help for those in need during the coronavirus lockdown. Connected via application, volunteers could reach the people who have applied for help and sort of smaller or bigger tasks - mainly delivering groceries, medicine or mail, or walking dogs. As on 23 April, there were close to 600 volunteers working at the movement.

Since 18 April, a non-governmental organisation Make Room in collaboration with Riga City Council was developed a micro-grant system to facilitate life for foreign students in Riga. Those who, due to the emergency situation, were unable to provide for their basic needs and whose declared place of residence was in Riga, could remotely turn to the Riga Social Service for assistance. The amount of crisis benefit was EUR 128.00 per person and the deadline for applications was until the national lockdown ends.

capital r, riga, covid-19, coronavirus, 2020

The local independent investigating journalism platform, Re:Baltica, was constantly checking fake news and conspiracies on social and mass media since 10 March with constant focus since 14 March (an open call to cooperate followed a day later).

Largest amount of content covered local politicians or doctors trying to shine with their lack of knowledge, made-up professors, scientists, or medicine experts from top universities or hospitals, miraculous medicine and homeopathy from Russia, and local/pro-Kremlin trolls.

In result, here is a list of pages and people (as composed from articles at Re:Baltica + CAPITAL R personal experience, and user comments on Re:Baltica requests). You should ban them as sources of information and opinion on the coronavirus and other matters:
  • Aivis Vasilevskis
  • Allans Parijancs
  • Andris Ciekurs
  • Es mīlu Latviju un Eiropu
  • Gaismas Tīmeklis
  • Iveta Buiķe
  • Jānis Pļaviņš
  • Jurijs Kļimovs
  • Kla.TV
  • Kristine Liepina
  • Kristofers Greberis
  • Marija Sils
  • Memory Water
  • Nožēlojamā valdība
  • Reinis Liene Grinhofi
  • Tautas kalpi
  • Tautas Varas fronte
  • Vakcīnrealitāte Latvijā
  • Valentīns Jeremjevs
There was a growing concern that one of outcomes of fighting coronavirus can and will be a growing rate of domestic violence. A week after announcing lockdown, the amount of police calls related to domestic violence in Riga doubled. After dropping recently, it was still higher than usual. As on 9 April, according to data by Ministry of Internal, the average number of calls per day (related to any domestic conflict) had grown to 32 (compared to last year's 21). On 26 May, a case of domestic homicide was registered.

Police calls related to domestic violence in Riga before and after lockdown (RPP; 28.03.20).

Despite inconveniences, majority tended to enjoy good food on couch, and kind of embraced with self-isolation well since it is nothing new to Latvians. Many were annoyed, from both camps, but kept it together.

Despite the relatively stable situation, every forth person in Latvia suffered depression or subdued mood during lockdown. On 11 May, a young woman fell under the train in Zasulauks, Riga and committed suicide. Professionals warned about this time being psychologically very tense and urged to finish the construction of the new ambulatory clinic now stopped simply because it would be needed very soon and for very many.

Many organisations emphasized there might be a growing pattern of alcoholism following the postpandemic especially when the restriction of disallowing booze been sold online was temporary lifted. On 24 May, a survey revealed the opposite - roughly 2/3 of the public facing no chances in consumption of alcoholic beverages, and only 10% noticed they are drinking more. However, more than 10 % were unsure.

Some took a break from the city deep in the forest or by the beach since the weather was great while winters are too long. Some were just dump and visited very popular places instead of trying out something remote (despite warnings by the government and "Latvian State Forests" that have closed several popular nature trails at watching platforms since 28 March). There was an intensive rise of littering since April began - the raising amount of visitors at natural areas highlighted bad habits of not picking up or dumping the trash.

According to the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, changes in mobility trends in Latvia decreased considerably as on 29 March. Retail & recreation went down by -50 %; Grocery & pharmacy by -22 %; trends for Transit stations by -48 %, and Workplaces by -25 %.

Only the mobility trends for Places of residence had gone up by +7 % despite the #stayathome movement. All the data was compared by the baseline being the corresponding day of the week during the 5-week period 3 Jan – 6 Feb, 2020. That was definitely not the time many chose to be outside in general; if compared to a warmer period of the year, the indices would be drastically different.

Another research, run and published by "Latvian Mobile Telephone" in collaboration with University of Latvia, showed the phone call activity also rapidly decreasing in the largest urban centres in Latvia during lockdown, whereas it grew outside. Seemed that many have ceased their phone calls possibly because of lack of business, moving their operations and communication to online, or leaving larger urban centres for smaller and more dense ones. It would be much appreciated if a new research related to mobile internet usage would be carried out too.

Blue marks increased call activity, red - decreased call activity during lockdown (LMT; LU; 03.04.2020).

Those living in microraions and high-rise suburban panel houses were disinfecting handrails and leaving toothpicks at lifts for pushing buttons.

A survey ordered by Latvian Television News Service revealed on 8 May that the vast majority (around 85 %) in Latvia were very satisfied with the level of informing and the success of controlling the virus. Relatively good was the appreciation of police check-ins, the control of the ill as well as availability of tests (at least 40 - 50 %). On the contrary, help provided to employees and businesses by the government was negatively rated by more than a half of the population. Finally, almost 28 % of the surveyed did not trust the official information about the virus.

Since the beginning of April, many started to discuss whether it is rational to use face masks daily. People were confused - WHO would find them useful when being ill or when working with those with the virus (while DIY or textile masks are highly not recommendable). Although MIT later claimed the droplets from sneezing and coughing can travel as far as 6 - 8 m, and using any mask can help to prevent the virus if it's used at all times, correctly and changed regularly.

The most rational reason to wear a mask was due to specifics of the illness - around 25 % can be infected without even noticing it. Therefore, the mask could stop the virus among vast majority of the population that don't even realize they have it.

On the contrary, there was a shortage of medical masks and respirators the world could face extremely soon. Medical personnel, social workers, and policemen without masks due to shortage would be much more dangerous than a pedestrian. Another important fact to keep in mind - people can get infected via eyes. Therefore, even a good mask could protect others from getting ill, but it might not protect oneself.

Since the extension of the emergency situation on 7 April, one could notice just a handful of people wearing various masks in Riga. Yet their wearing habits would be utterly wrong, dangerous, and useless - the masks would be constantly drawn off the face and left under the chin, touched, and wrongly returned back to face, and more. In this case, using more masks was visibly making people more contagious.

RELAXING RESTRICTIONS

Since 10 June, after the emergency situation was lifted, some restrictions have stayed:
  • events inside can hold not more than 100 people with up to 300 open-air,
  • up to 8 people are now allowed at a single table outside (4 inside), but 2 m distance between tables must be maintained,
  • hand sanitizing is still active,
  • physical distancing is still active, except when at children camps or kindergartens, dance and sports trainings, at work, and among family members,
  • sports events are allowed with not more than 30 people,
  • face masks are obligatory when using any public transport,
  • events must end at 24:00 with open-air activities and public catering facilities closing at 02:00 the latest,
  • in July, it could be possible that 500 people are allowed indoors at spaces larger than 1000m2 (but not more than filling 50% of the area), with 1000 people limit outside.

Already on 6 May, The Prime Ministers of the Baltic States agreed that, due to successful implementation of the measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, the control on the borders of the Baltic States will be lifted starting from 15 May. Since then, the residents in the Baltic States were provided with free movement within the region (14-day quarantine required if you arrived to any Baltic state from a different country in the last 14 days). On 15 May, all three Baltic Ministers of Exterior met in Riga to celebrate the opening of major border controls.

Border controls open for travelling between the Baltic States. Different to Latvia and Estonia, masks are obligatory in Lithuania at most public places. Hotels are open, recreation and entertainment places might have restrictions (Minstry of Exterior; 2020).

On 7 May, the Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced the state will buy shares of the air carrier "AirBaltic" for up to 250 million euro. It would reach the national share up to 91%. AirBaltic resumed flights to first several countries starting from 13 May.

International bus routes in the Baltic states were reopened by 22 May as well. That only included journeys between the capitals of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. On 21 May, the Minister of Exterior, Edgars Rinkēvičs, announced that free entry to Latvia is now allowed to citizens of EU, European Economic Area, and Switzerland if 14 day quarantine is observed after arrival.

Since 3 June, people would be allowed to travel from or to Latvia to most of EU and EEZ countries without mandatory 14-day quarantine. If the cumulative statistics showed less than 15 infected per 100,000 inhabitants, everybody would be free to travel. As on 9 June, the only countries with exceptionally low ratings and not recommended for travels in EU and EEZ, were Sweden, UK, Portugal, and Belgium (with yellow warning for Malta, Ireland, and Spain).

Throughout the last two weeks of May, most of museums, libraries, nature parks, and cultural spaces were reopening. Since 16 May, when the first drive-in cinema was launched in Riga, several towns in Latvia followed. Other cinemas, also theatres and concert halls reopened their activities by selling only a percent of tickets to satisfy the 2 m distance.

Since 1 June, amateur theatres, folk dance and song troupes, children camps, adult education activities, and many other professional public gatherings were allowed. Since 29 May, work in the movie industry was restarted. All activities must grant 2 m distance between individuals and disinfection available on site.

Already by the end of April, it seemed that things in Riga are slowly, precautiously, yet unstoppably returning back to normal or balancing in control. People moved into acceptance phase, and stopped running leisure bets on how many positive covid-19 cases there will be every next day or sharing memes about the virus. Even the Minister of Health, Ilze Viņķele, let herself loose and played an online dance party on Twitch on 8 May.

Ilze Viņķele playing an online "Quarantine discoteque" as invited by DJ Kalvis Ķilkuts (08.05.2020).
On 13 May, the business portal "Foreign Policy" in Washington D.C. praised Latvian results in successfully limiting the spread of the virus and calling it one of the coronavirus pandemic’s success stories. It said that the country has taken a unified, middle-of-the-road approach to the coronavirus, rooted in respect for science, thus managing to keep the lowest infected and fatality rates in the Baltics.

No one cared about the Facebook readings of Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio by mid-May already. There was enough toilet paper for everyone throughout the whole lockdown period, buckwheat has long been back in town.



* Sources: LSM.lv; SPKC.gov.lv; LTV.lv; 1188.lv; RPP; ourworldindata.org; LETA; worldometers.info; Google.

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