By Andrius Sytas
VILNIUS, March 23 (Reuters) – Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday approved regular mandatory COVID-19 testing for some workers and anyone refusing to be tested must work remotely or be suspended without pay.
Coronavirus cases in the Baltic country have climbed this week and the first infections of the variant that emerged in South Africa were detected on Tuesday.
A government medical advisor told reporters the rate of infections is likely to double by April due to the South African variant and another strain that first appeared in Britain.
The government will now draw up a list of workers that must have tests when the new rules come in on Friday and also determine how frequently they have to be retested.
Medical, social care and education staff will be among the first to undergo the mandatory tests, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters, as well as workers at restaurants once they reopen.
“This is very important to control the situation”, she said. “We tried recommending the testing, but that didn’t get us as far as hoped.”
“Only aggressive testing at the hotspots and constant preventive testing elsewhere could keep the moderate coronavirus situation in places where it is still moderate,” she said.
The state will pay for the mandatory tests.
Lithuania has been in a lockdown since mid-December, with non-essential shops closed and meetings between households banned. (Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by David Clarke)
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