Preparing for the second wave of coronavirus: Vilnius has announced how we will live till Christmas


As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Lithuania went back up, the City of Vilnius has updated the action plan to combat coronavirus in order to bring the possible second wave of COVID-19 in the capital under control.

Vilnius is taking preventive measures to reduce the spread of the virus; an updated information campaign with hygiene recommendations will also shortly reach public transport, bus stops, education, treatment and other institutions. The City of Vilnius will also refer to the State Emergency Operations Centre (VESOC) for a more responsible epidemiological control and more tests of people coming to Lithuania.

“We cannot ignore the remaining and growing threat of the virus, just as we cannot forget the important lessons we learnt. The summer brought us all a respite, lots of joy and confidence. However, if we do not want the spring scenario to repeat, we will have to spend the next six months at the least learning to live with coronavirus. We are therefore preparing for the fall, which may be different in many areas. Just like we met the first wave on time half a year ago and restored life after it subsided, today we are ready to meet the challenges of the second wave even more effectively and not to allow it to take lives or to paralyze city life”, – Remigijus Šimašius, the Mayor of Vilnius, said.

The Mayor of Vilnius R. Šimašius says that municipal decisions related to COVID-19 will be organized taking into account the resolutions adopted by VESOC.

How will we welcome the new school year?

For the time being, Vilnius is preparing for the usual upcoming new school year – information on hygiene important at this time and other important recommendations in education institutions of children and youth are being updated. If separate decisions are made at the national level regarding the organization or cancellation of mass events, including events for the beginning of the school year, these celebrations may be postponed or cancelled in education institutions of the city.

Remote learning is also likely, therefore, in preparation for this possible scenario, the City of Vilnius will hold trainings for teachers on successful and effective remote learning at the end of August.

It is important for parents to know that an exception has been made during this period – going to medical institutions for children’s medical statements is not required, because the expiry date of last year’s medical statements was extended till the New Year. Medical statements will only be required for those changing schools or kindergartens.

Healthcare services – safe and available

Changes are also planned in healthcare institutions. Contact and remote consultations will be provided, which will allow providing services faster, however the necessary safety requirements will be observed, which is important to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to improve the availability of services, the City plans to compensate costs of outpatient clinics incurred for temporarily increasing the number of specialists working in reception. The aim is for Vilnius residents to be able to register for a remote or contact doctor’s consultation, or extended treatment (prescriptions) faster and easier.

As long as there is a risk of catching COVID-19, remote consultations remain and will be encouraged, also ensuring that conversations between doctors and patients are as comprehensive as possible.

The City has been searching for ways to improve infrastructure and to set up additional mobile coronavirus test points as well as to form mobile teams, which, if necessary, will be able to travel to potential virus outbreak locations. In order to ensure a smooth and prompt testing of Vilnius residents, employees of personal health care institutions of Vilnius are constantly invited to perform tests, but the aim is to also attract medical specialists from other municipalities. Currently, there is one mobile point in Vilnius that serves residents of Vilnius county.  About 40 000 tests have been performed in Vilnius mobile points alone in the last 4 months.

The City and health care facilities currently have a sufficient reserve of personal protective equipment, which, according to estimates, will be enough for the remaining six months. The Government has not yet compensated the City of Vilnius the funds it spent to bring the first wave of COVID-19 under control, and it has not yet provided any data on the condition of the state reserve.

Having assessed the fact that most COVID-19 cases have been imported, the City addressed the VESOC for more active and responsible control of arriving persons. To this end, to ensure that the greatest possible number of people are tested as fast and conveniently as possible, the City has planned to install a mobile point or to arrange a mobile team. The City still seeks to receive data from the National Public Health Centre (NVSC) on confirmed positive coronavirus cases of returning residents and the identified locations which these people visited.

Encouraging remote work

During the first wave of COVID-19, the City of Vilnius and its entire group of companies demonstrated a good example of how to smoothly work and provide all the services offered by the municipality remotely only.

The City also invites other organizations and businesses to move work from offices to homes, to cancel any unnecessary meetings or to move them to the virtual space, to provide services remotely and to consult by phone right now, without waiting for the fall to come.

Safe commuting in the city

After the government approved the mandatory wearing of masks in public places, public transport passengers of the city are reminded of the key rules. On 1 August, the mandatory wearing of masks in buses and trolleybuses, just like in other public indoor places, will be reinstated; moreover, hand sanitizers will be available in every bus and trolleybus; passengers will be asked to maintain a safe distance both in bus stops and in public transport, and to plan their trips choosing emptier routes and less busy travel times: 

Almost all disinfection, cleanliness, distance and other measures in public transport were left in place after the quarantine was lifted to ensure maximum safety of passengers and drivers. Vilnius constantly informed passengers about wearing protective masks through various channels, including on billboards in bus stops, on public transport screens and audio recordings. Starting this week, public transport ticket inspectors will monitor the situation in bus stops of highest intensity, reminding passengers to wear masks.

Work areas of drivers in public transport have been physically separated installing marking tapes at the beginning of the quarantine. They do not sell single paper tickets, while passengers can get on and off using the middle and back doors.

Insufficient and epidemiological data, which NVSC cannot always accurately trace, raise concern. Although there is no reliable information that residents of Vilnius catch infection on public transport in particular, requirements and various restrictions that apply here are among the strictest.

What will Christmas be like in the capital?

In order to ensure the safety of Vilnius residents and guests, this summer, which has been different, the City plans Christmas events taking into account the likelihood of a possible second quarantine. Christmas events have not been cancelled in the programme under consideration. Most of the events have been planned to take place in observance of safety requirements. However, the big Christmas tree lighting concert may be cancelled during this year’s holiday season.

Still, specific decisions will be taken in light of the epidemiological situation in the country and the decisions of the VESOC which is continuing its work.