Scientific council: Lockdown of no use without vaccinations

Head of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar.
Head of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar. Source: ERR

The coronavirus restrictions implemented in Latvia will not have a major effect if they are not accompanied by rapid and broad vaccinations, said Irja Lutsar, head of the government's advisory scientific council.

"If we think of the draconic measures [Latvia will implement from Thursday], they will not make anyone more immune. No restriction will increase immunity. On the contrary - the more people stay away from each other, the less there is a chance of getting immunity the natural way," Lutsar told ERR on Tuesday morning.

Latvian prime minister Krišjanis Karinš announced on Monday evening that the government will implement a "lockdown" or "home-sitting" period in an effort to turn around the current grave epidemiological situation with regard to COVID-19, Latvia's public broadcaster LSM reported.

The restrictions during lockdown will apply to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Among the measures are a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., closing non-essential stores and sports and entertainment venues.

The lockdown is needed as pressure is growing on the country's healthcare system with some hospitals at 80 percent occupancy. If the situation continues, emergency care may have to be reduced, the country's head of the Emergency Medical Service has said.

Lutsar said these measures are only useful if they are supplemented by other actions. "It would be another thing if they were able to vaccinate all of Latvia in that time - then it would have a positive effect. But if you just force people into their homes - it will delay infections a little - but as these measures are eased and the virus has not disappeared, it will all come back," the scientific council head and virology professor said.

Lutsar added that Latvia's situation differs from Estonia's because Estonia has been able to vaccinate the elderly first and only then opened vaccinations to younger age groups. "Latvia was not able to get that set up for some reason and made vaccinations available very early - everyone was able to get vaccinated. Their highest rates of vaccination is among the younger generations, but this does not help much in terms of avoiding infection among the elderly," she said.

The virologist said very strict restrictions are necessary in some cases because it gives the healthcare system time to breathe. "But like I said, it does not immunize anyone," Lutsar said, calling everyone to go get vaccinated if they have not already.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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