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New measures for curbing COVID-19

Date

2022 08 11

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Approaching autumn brings more cases of acute upper respiratory tract infections and the Ministry of Health took up the challenge by updating COVID-19 testing procedures and the criteria for declaring epidemics. These changes will enable to ensure smooth operations of health care institutions, providing municipalities with tools for prompt response and control of the situation as the number of cases increases.

According to the Minister of Health Arūnas Dulkys, this year we are looking at an ordinary start of the academic year. This means, that, considering the high immunisation level (more than 80 per cent) of the population and the peculiarities of the currently prevailing strain of the coronavirus, there are no plans for quarantine.

‘In autumn, our citizens will get back to work, school and closed spaces, thus it is only natural that the number of cases may increase. However, there is absolutely no reason to discuss the introduction of an extreme situation or a nation-wide quarantine. According to statistics, the situation is new and the virus has acquired a ‘milder’ form. Thus, we have new tools for the autumn that will make us more flexible, offering more efficient ways of managing the spread of the virus.’ claims the Minister of Health.

The currently prevailing strain of the coronavirus is characterised by milder symptoms, thus the majority of the COVID-19 patients recover at home. Differently from the previous waves of the pandemic, most of the burden now falls on healthcare centres and general physicians, rather than hospitals and intensive care units.

According to the current procedure, residents with mild COVID-19 symptoms wishing to confirm the diagnosis must contact their general practitioner and come to a health care institution, where they will be prescribed a rapid antigen test.

Nevertheless, with increased numbers of patients with mild symptoms, there is a goal to protect the physicians, other patients, visiting health care institutions, and legitimise COVID-19 diagnosis by clinical and epidemiological criteria. This means that if someone has a confirmed COVID-19 case in their close environment or if they get a positive rapid antigen test, purchased at a shop or a pharmacy, their general physician will be able to confirm that they're COVID-19 positive without the necessity for the patient to come for a test at a health care institution. In such case, general physicians will be able to contact their patients using the means of remote communication and assess their health condition remotely. This procedure will come into force as of 16 August.
It’s important to note that self-administered rapid antigen testing will not apply to the issue of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. In order to obtain this document, residents will have to get a prescription from their general physician for a test, conducted at a medical institution.

A kindly reminder, residents sensing COVID-19 symptoms should contact the closest general practitioner's institution, which has an agreement with a territorial division of the National Health Insurance Fund, even if this is not the general practitioner they're registered with.  Residents, covered by the compulsory health insurance, will not have to pay for the consultation or the testing. This could be relevant for residents on holidays or staying away from their place of residence for other reasons.

Another important change is that upon integrating COVID-19 into the general airborne communicable diseases management system, indices of this disease have been included into in the criteria for announcing epidemics, providing municipalities with tools for prompt and flexible response to the epidemiological situation.

Municipalities that have reached the set cumulative incidence rate of influenza, COVID-19 disease and acute upper respiratory tract infections (1,500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week) will be able to declare an epidemic in their territory and take measures to curb the spread of these infections: apply temporary limitations to mass events (cancel them altogether or limit the number of participants), organise remote education for a class, group of classes, or an entire school in case of intensive spread of COVID-19, influenza or other acute respiratory infections, give recommendations for remote work to public and private sectors, strengthen infection prevention at health care and social care institutions, improve recommendations regarding the application of the general and already well-known infection prevention measures, etc.

Should the number of cases or hospital beds used increase all over the country and reach established limits, an epidemic could be declared in the entire Lithuanian territory and the decision could be made by the Minister of Health or an authorised representative.

As autumn and the new academic year approaches, residents are recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t already, and take care of a booster dose on time. Information about vaccination is available here.

Please be reminded that other efficient general COVID-19 prevention measures for you and your nearest and dearest also include: mask wearing and keeping your distance in public places, personal hygiene, sneezing and coughing etiquette, etc. Recommendations for COVID-19 prevention by the Ministry of Health are available here.

Live press conference on COVID-19 management measures for the approaching autumn by the Ministry of Health is available here.

Press Service of the Ministry of Health

(Piktochart photo)

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