Latvia's health experts urge tighter restrictions as 3rd COVID-19 wave looms

2021-03-18 17:05:42 GMT2021-03-19 01:05:42(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

RIGA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- For the past couple of months, Latvia's COVID-19 incidence has been gradually dropping, with the most significant decrease recorded last week, but at the start of this week infections spiked again, causing fears of a third coronavirus wave.

Commenting on the signs of a resurgence, Latvia's chief infectious disease specialist Uga Dumpis noted on public television Thursday that a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases was recorded on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We are concerned about what is going to happen in the next few days and the next week," the health expert said, warning that the infection rate will most likely increase.

The speed at which the third wave will hit Latvia largely depends on the spread of the more transmissible virus strain identified in Britain, which is now found in around 25 percent of all sequenced samples. Another mutated coronavirus strain, first found in Uganda, has been detected in Latvia's southwestern city Liepaja.

Asked about possibilities to adjust or loosen some COVID-19 restrictions, Dumpis ruled out any relaxation and stressed that at this point, "we can only talk about tightening restrictions."

Professor Girts Brigis, head of the Public Health and Epidemiology Department at Riga Stradins University (RSU), agreed that in the current situation, any discussions about easing restrictions have to be put off.

"Only a big optimist could believe that Latvia might avoid Europe's scenario," Brigis said, pointing to the spread of the new, more contagious coronavirus variants.

Latvia therefore must be prepared for a fresh increase in COVID-19 incidence and "restrictions on any movement," Brigis said, adding that only vaccination and reduction of face-to-face contacts could help improve the situation.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 264 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 82 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Tuesday. Enditem