An image of COVID-19 virus representing the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden

COVID-19 | The Case of Latvia

The first positive COVID – 19 case in Latvia was confirmed on March 3. By April 5, the number of positive cases grew to 533. The share of positive tests remains quite stable and is currently slightly below 3%.

State of Emergency

On March 12, the government declared the state of emergency until at least April 14. The adopted measures include suspension of all on-site education activities at schools and universities, prohibition of any public gatherings, festivals or other organized public events. People are advised to stay home, many companies are switching to remote work. There is no closure of public transportation, but, as of March 21, the number of routes and transportation frequency is being reduced because of a significant fall in the number of passengers.

On March 14, Latvia announced a national lockdown that became effective on March 17. All organized cross-border passenger traffic is closed until at least April 14. Riga airport is closed except for cargo aircrafts. Border crossing is also banned for private vehicles, except for Latvians returning to Latvia and for foreigners leaving Latvia. The government is now considering to prolong the state of emergency to three months. This implies that Latvia can remain in the state of emergency until mid-June.

As of March 28, all shopping centers are closed on weekends, except for grocery stores, pharmacies and construction shops. As of March 31, it is not allowed to stay outdoors in groups of more than 2 people (this does not apply to members of the same household). There should be at least a 2-meter distance between any groups of two people. This rule applies to staying outdoors, shops, public transport, and any other public spaces.

Fiscal Measures

The government announced a package of measures totaling approximately EUR 2 billion (equivalent to 80% of one-month Latvian GDP). The measures include financing of the sickness benefit (normally the first 10 days of the sickness leave is covered by the employer), postponement of all personal income tax advance payments, provision of up to three years of tax holidays to companies, state-guaranteed bank loan holidays and state-financed loans. Employees of the affected firms are eligible for a special compensation worth 75% of the employees’ wage (maximum 700 EUR per month). In addition, municipalities will provide additional support to the most vulnerable groups that are unable to meet their basic needs due to the crisis (e.g. the unemployed not (yet) receiving the unemployment benefit, persons in self-isolation or quarantine).

On April 2, the State Employment Agency informed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 companies in Latvia have announced collective redundancies, which will lead to 3278 employees being laid off. This mainly includes layoffs in transportation, catering and accommodation sectors.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.