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Baltic states face rising Covid case numbers amid low vaccine uptake

Published October 27,2021

The rampant spread of the coronavirus in the Baltic states is continuing apace despite new public health measures, with the number of new infections in Latvia and Estonia reaching the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic on Wednesday.

Latvia announced it had recorded some 3,206 new cases, while in Estonia 2,025 cases has been identified within 24 hours, it was announced on Wednesday. The number of infections continues to rise in Lithuania too.

According to the national health authorities, about 1,737 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants were registered in Latvia over the past 14 days, 1,408 in Estonia and 1,365 in Lithuania. The three Baltic states currently have the highest infection rates in Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Control.

To contain the pandemic, the governments in Riga and Tallinn have imposed strict new regulations. In Latvia, a lockdown with comprehensive restrictions and a night-time curfew is in effect until November 15; in Estonia, as well as a mask mandate, since October 25, people have had to prove they have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from the coronavirus in order to access certain services and public spaces.

The measures are also intended to reduce stress on the healthcare sector: Hospitals are already reaching capacity and can barely cope with the growing number of Covid-19 admissions. Latvia has even made a request for international assistance.

One reason for the rising number of cases is the low vaccination rate: Only about half of the Latvian and Estonian population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to date; in Lithuania the vaccination rate is slightly higher, at around 60 per cent.