This Week in LT, October 5

COVID-19 UPDATE

On October 5, Lithuanian Education Minister Algirdas Monkevičius announced that the coronavirus has affected about a tenth of schools in Lithuania. Nearly 1,500 children and 110 teachers are now in self-isolation, but only a few cases were contracted at a school. So far, the number of infected university students is very low, below 10 in all universities, said the minister. A total of 267 coronavirus cases have been recorded at Lithuania’s educational establishments since the start of the academic year on September 1, according to the National Public Health Center. According to data from 53 medical institutions in Lithuania, 9,799 or around two-thirds of the 15,519 hospital beds are currently occupied. Out of 569 beds in intensive care, some 299 are being used. Out of 502 available lung ventilators, 140 are currently in use. So far, however, only five coronavirus-infected patients require a lung ventilator.

After two members of French President Emmanuel Macron’s delegation tested positive for the coronavirus, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius will spend a week in self-isolation. Macron visited Lithuania on September 28–29. The French Embassy reported that two members of its staff in Vilnius had tested positive for the coronavirus and they were part of Macron’s delegation. They are self-isolating and the French Embassy has been closed for several days. The embassy’s press service stated that the whole delegation from Paris was pre-tested and the results were negative before the visit.

EARLY VOTING EXTENDED

Extended four-day early voting in the parliament election started on October 5 to reduce the risk of further spread of the coronavirus. Any citizen having an ID, a mask covering nose and mouth and a pen can come to any early voting station in any city in Lithuania and vote. If they have no mask or pen they will be supplied. Laura Matjosaityte, chair of Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission, emphasized that voters can go to any poll to vote, irrespective of their registered place of residence. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. On election day, Sunday, October 11, citizens will be able to vote only at polling stations in their election constituency. L. Matjosaityte is calling on elder voters and those in risk groups to use the early voting opportunity to avoid long lines of on election day. More early voting stations have been set up in Lithuania for this vote. Over 40,000 Lithuanians have registered for voting abroad.

EASING RESIDENCY APPLICATION RULES

On September 30, the Lithuanian Cabinet backed the Interior Ministry’s proposal to process applications for temporary residence permits remotely, and on receipt of a positive decision applicants could enter the country and submit their document’s biometric data. Interior Minister Rita Tamasuniene noted that such changes were proposed because of the lack of certain highly-qualified specialists in Lithuania and requests from businesses. Due to the difficulty of obtaining tests in Belarus, the government lifted the requirement to submit coronavirus test results done no less than three days prior to arrival, for people wishing to enter Lithuania due to persecution, or those needing  to move their businesses from Belarus.

The Cabinet also made changes to introduce more flexibility for foreigners seeking entrance to Lithuania for humanitarian reasons, and henceforward not only the foreign minister but also his authorized representative will be able to submit an application to the Interior Ministry.