Chairman of the Traders Association Henriks Danusēvičs: Latvia stands out with excessive, illogical restrictions

Conversation with Henriks Danusēvičs, Chairman of the Latvian Traders Association.
13.11.2021. MKMāris Krautmanis
Henriks Danusēvičs: “I don't really understand what is the problem if a person, even an unvaccinated person, visits a bookstore and buys a book there? There are never crowds in bookstores." ©Romāns KOKŠAROVS, F64 Photo Agency

How do you assess the new restrictions that will come into force after the lockdown?

The good thing is that will return to the situation that existed before October 15 - no more lockdown. The downside is that there will be tougher restrictions on people, especially those who are not vaccinated, and there will be additional restrictions on businesses. The story of compensating for losses is not really big, because for that there must be a quite big drop in turnover - if I remember correctly, 60%. And these restrictions, in turn, are not so big that companies' turnover will fall by 60%.

The new thing is that unvaccinated people without a Covid certificate will be banned from buying books, computer hardware, flowers and the like. All they have left are friends or remote purchases. It is also the case that people without certificates cannot shop in stores larger than 1,500 square meters. This is bad in places where there is a high concentration of population and it has been more cost-effective for shops to build larger premises than these 1,500 square meters.

But now people who are not vaccinated, and many of them are seniors, will search for a smaller shop and perhaps walk a larger distance to buy food for themselves. But in this small shop, they will not be able to buy what the big shop has to offer - socks, tights, creams, etc. Because for small shops, such an assortment is minimal or non-existent.

It is good that "green mode" shops can work without restrictions, however, those in supermarkets have to close on weekends and public holidays.

Unfortunately, that definition of a shopping center is quite comical - a store over 1,500 square meters has become a "shopping center", which can no longer be entered without a certificate. As a result, many non-food stores cannot operate on holidays.

Now there will be more time to shop because it was allowed until seven o'clock during the lockdown, but now it will be possible until nine o'clock. This will then partially relieve the panic of having to get all the shopping done by 19:00.

On the positive side, the Ministry of Health has agreed to discuss more reasonable terms - about the 25 square meters per buyer. There is no such number anywhere in Europe. In neighboring countries, where the incidence was much higher, it was 15 or 16 square meters. This is necessary so that a person does not have to stand outside in a line for a long time. There will be rain, wind, maybe snow, and people will still need to stand outside and freeze. In turn, the smaller square meters allowed for the trader will ensure faster movement of buyers and, consequently, more efficient work. As a result, employees don't have to be laid off, prices don't have to be raised.

But at least pharmacies have the criterion of 15 square meters...

It is different with pharmacies - the institutions under the Ministry of Health are in a privileged position.

15 meters provided that the pharmacy provides vaccination and testing.

Vaccination has not been defined anywhere. The pharmacy can vaccinate for one hour a day, but the 15-meter criterion remains throughout the day.

And if the Ministry of Health already admits that the pharmacy is visited by more sick people than the shops, then there is no logic. Why, then, does a store have a stricter criterion for space than a pharmacy?

Restricting unvaccinated people clearly shows that it is the government's plan to increase vaccination coverage. Seniors will be forced to consider - go to a further store on weak legs or get vaccinated and go shopping anywhere.

Yes, but will it help these people who have lived a full life and have an attitude that they will die sooner or later, so what does it matter anymore? And why risk the vaccine? Will the fact that they won't be able to shop convince them? That is a rather cruel attitude.

There are also people who cannot be vaccinated. But how can a shopkeeper check that a person who cannot be vaccinated can be admitted to the shop? There is also such a problem.

My colleague Juris Birznieks has started a campaign in the "Mana balss" portal with the proposal that if a person has insured himself against Covid and does not place an additional burden on a medical institution and is ready to pay for private treatment, he should be treated as a certified person and given the same mobility. It's logical. All the restrictions are in place so that our medical facilities can cope with Covid without being overwhelmed. Juris says that in that case, a person takes responsibility for himself - he either vaccinates or does not vaccinate and takes responsibility for himself, paying and not burdening the health care system if he falls ill.

There is also the case that there are people who have contracted Covid but have not been tested at the time. They have antibodies in their body. However, these antibodies are not taken into account and they are forced to go and get vaccinated. They too should have Covid certificates as long as these antibodies are plentiful.

The government is unlikely to agree. Opposition proposals on antibodies have been submitted to the Saeima at least a couple of times, but they have been rejected. In both Lithuania and Estonia, antibodies are taken into account and certificates are issued for a while...

Yes, Latvia stands out with excessive, illogical restrictions. We demand 25 square meters per buyer, but nowhere has anyone proved that this is the area that should be used. We are already well aware of the main risks - for example, public transport is countless times more dangerous than a shop.

I don't really understand what is the problem if a person, even an unvaccinated person, visits a bookstore and buys a book there? There are never crowds in bookstores.

People are not given a choice, an alternative way to spend time - grassroots sports are closed, even nature trails are closed. Where to go?

In such circumstances, psychological problems develop, which sometimes become mental illnesses, alcoholism, drug addiction. There should be a plan - we limit this, but we allow that.

There is always a lack of logic. The shops were closed by 7pm, but did it make any sense? The seniors' group, which they wish to reach, at 7pm is already sitting at home in warm slippers, watching TV or doing some housework. These people do not wander the streets and shops in the evenings.


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