Latvia scrambles to stabilize COVID-19 incidence

By UnreguserLi Deping

RIGA, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Latvian government and health authorities have been scrambling to stabilize the COVID-19 incidence amid steadily growing cases in recent weeks.

According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the 14-day cumulative COVID-19 incidence in Latvia reached 61.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants Friday and has continued to rise since then.

The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals rose by 31 on Thursday to 105. Health Minister Ilze Vinkele informed this week that if the number exceeds 250, the healthcare system will have to be reorganized to provide more hospital beds.

The minister, however, voiced hope that the fresh restrictions introduced at the end of last week will help prevent such a scenario and the rate of infections will stabilize. Two weeks have to pass before the effectiveness of the new safety measures becomes evident, the minister said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with public radio on Thursday, CDC head Iveta Gavare admitted staff shortages, saying that epidemiologists' workload has grown immensely in recent weeks and the CDC needs more employees to trace all coronavirus cases.

The CDC has borrowed some employees from the Health Ministry and hired students to deal with the staff shortages, she said.

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has stressed the role of society in curbing the spread of the virus, saying that each member of society can contribute to fighting the pandemic by strictly complying with safety measures like wearing masks in public spaces, keeping a two-meter distance from others, washing hands frequently and refraining from attending public events.

Karins ruled out the need at the moment to declare a new state of emergency because the government has many more tools at its disposal that could be put to use should the situation deteriorate further.

Latvia registered record-high daily caseloads on Friday and Wednesday, each with 188 confirmed cases. The pandemic has so far claimed 49 lives in Latvia.

As the world is struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, countries including Germany, France, Italy, China, Russia, Britain and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

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