Each country in its own way comes out of the protracted period of the pandemic and encourages its vaccinated residents. Let’s see how this is happening in Latvia, where dramatic changes in the lives of citizens are expected from 15 June.
Already next week, two significant events await Latvians: in shopping centers everyone will be able to get vaccinated, and those who have already managed to get fully vaccinated will be able to freely visit not only cultural events, but also closed premises of bars and restaurants.
Finally, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel and the country launched a victorious offensive against the insidious coronavirus. It is gradually losing ground, which allows the existing restrictions to be lifted step by step. The compliance of the virus is mainly due to the success of the vaccination campaign. To date, half a million Latvians have been vaccinated, and 350 thousand have already been fully vaccinated. That is, about a quarter of the population may no longer fear the serious consequences of COVID-19.
To this number it is worth adding those Latvians who have suffered an asymptomatic form of the disease and have already acquired antibodies. In addition, there are people, scientists say, who are simply immune to the virus. Therefore, it is quite possible to hope that somewhere in August the level of the disease will be reduced to a minimum, and the term “pandemic” will become a thing of the past.
And yet, it is still far from complete relaxation. People continue to die from the effects of an insidious infection, although the death rate has dropped significantly. On Tuesday, for example, 10 people died. These are mainly elderly people who, logically, should already be vaccinated (for this age group, vaccination started in February). But…
High morbidity and mortality among the elderly has exposed the ineffectiveness of efforts to attract them to vaccines. As dispassionate statistics show, only 40% of elderly people have been vaccinated, although in many European countries this figure is 70%. So the priority of the authorities for the near future is vaccination of the 60+ age group, and they are racking their brains over what bonuses can be offered to the elderly in exchange for vaccination.
Indeed, visiting gyms and restaurants does not attract the elderly, and the idea of a special lottery being discussed in the government did not receive the support of the majority. Experts believe that bonuses in the form of gift cards, discounts on medical services (paid) and medicines that are dispensed without a prescription could be attractive at this age. It is also very important that the vaccination process is as transparent, simple and accessible as possible for older people. Home vaccinations are also worth considering.
Another important population group should be vaccinated in August – teachers and educational workers. And teachers should also be encouraged – with discounts on travel, additional payments to wages or other bonuses. Only in case of successful vaccination will the school process in September be as safe as possible.
A separate issue on the government’s agenda is the issue of childhood vaccination. Agree, in any country, not all parents are ready to send their children for vaccination (in Latvia, vaccination is allowed from the age of 12). But what if the lifting of restrictions on vaccinated parents cannot be extended to their children without vaccination? While the authorities are looking for a solution to this issue that would suit everyone.
But a big plus is the support of Brussels in the fight against the pandemic, even for economically weak countries. Along with the Fund for Economic Recovery and Stabilization, the European Union also provides member countries with separate financial assistance – for job creation, support for small and medium-sized businesses, environmental protection and urgent medical expenses. This year, Latvia will have access to 209 million euros, next year – 62 million. Although, of course, it will be necessary to add funds from the Latvian budget to them. And within the framework of the recovery and stabilization fund, Latvia will receive about 2 billion euros in 2021-2022! But the most important thing is to use this money correctly.