Changes for COVID-19 from May 1 in Lithuania

Covid-19 LT @Versli Lietuva

From 1 May, the emergency situation in Lithuania has been lifted. From then on, not only the rules on wearing masks will change, but also the rules on visiting patients. At that time, it will be possible to take a disease test with a referral from your family doctor. The doctor will also decide on the isolation time, reported.

Aušra Bilotienė-Motiejūnienė, Deputy Minister of Health, who presented the changes, said that the number of cases in Lithuania is continuing to fall, which is why the emergency situation can be lifted.

“Every day, we have fewer cases of COVID-19, and this is certainly due to vaccination. The immunisation rate in Lithuania is high enough, which makes it possible to take decisions to modify and lift the emergency and manage the disease differently.

We are not saying that it is gone, but we are saying that it is being managed differently because immunization rates are still high, and today about half of the critically ill patients and a little more are unvaccinated,” she commented.

The Vice-Minister noted that it is time to move to endemic management of the disease: “We are seeing that vaccines do work. As in Lithuania and elsewhere, all countries are planning the way forward, how to move to endemic status or to ordinary disease. This Sunday, we move to ordinary disease by lifting the emergency.”

Where else will masks be needed from 1 May?

One of the more important changes from Sunday is the procedure for wearing masks, the Vice-Minister said.

“It remains a guideline requirement for masks in all vehicles, but the ministry encourages us to take stock of those who do not feel safe. We must use the mask, and we must use it correctly. However, as I said, this becomes a recommendation, including airports, buses, trolleybuses – absolutely all public transport,” commented Ms Bilotienė-Motiejūnienė.

She pointed out that the procedure for visiting relatives in medical institutions is also changing.

“Visits will probably be more extensive. The procedure itself will be determined by the head of the health care institution if you ask why the institution is not the same as the facility. Some institutions will still have caved, sensitive immunosuppression units, and others will provide more elective services. However, wearing masks will be compulsory for visitors”, she said. 

Similarly, wearing masks is compulsory when visiting relatives in nursing and care facilities.

Asked to clarify whether only visitors or patients will be required to wear masks, Ms Bilotienė-Motiejūnienė said that only visitors are mandated so far.

“The provisions on the wearing of masks and the provisions of all the legislation that is required are being transposed into the orders of the Minister of Health. It will be an order that will allow internal procedures to be set, i.e. for medical staff, by the head of the personal health care facility. However, there would be a mandatory provision, meaning visitors would have to wear masks. There is no provision for patients to wear masks,” the Deputy Minister said.

However, if an asymptomatic person visits a clinic, the facilities themselves will have the possibility to specify that he/she should wear a mask.

“If a person is symptomatic, has a temperature, feels unwell, protective equipment is necessary, if they come for a consultation with a neurologist, urologist, other specialist or a family doctor to get vaccinated, this will be determined by the procedure of the head of the health care institution. After weighing up our institutions, we allow and give the right to determine. But in general, it remains a recommendation,” said Ms Bilotienė-Motiejūnienė.

At the same time, she insisted that live consultations will be returned as much as possible, but exceptions will be made in certain cases.

Testing with a doctor’s referral

The testing procedure for those who experience symptoms and suspect they might have COVID-19 is also changing.

“This means that there are no more mobile clinics, so we have to go to the primary health care centre where we are registered with a family doctor. And once we have written a referral, we will receive a referral, and those who have symptoms can have the test. Today, the tests are only carried out in isolated facilities <…>. It is no longer possible to register for testing by calling 1808”, commented the Vice-Minister.

“However, if a child is unwell, schools have every opportunity to test the child, the class, if they feel unwell.” 

Only pupils with parental consent will be able to be tested, she noted. If not, the symptomatic child is discharged home, and the parents decide on further treatment.

“Rapid professional antigen tests will be carried out in primary health care centres, where it will be possible to know within 15-20 minutes whether one has a positive or negative response to COVID-19,” she added.

Mandatory testing on admission to the hospital will also be discontinued. “In the emergency centre, if there is a suspicion that a person could be ill, or has symptoms, then it will be done, but for elective services, there will be no mandatory negative COVID-19 test. It could be only for symptomatic patients.

I should also mention that other countries have long since adopted the testing of symptomatic patients and only symptomatic test patients, and today we are going down the same road. We will only test symptomatic patients and will not require testing for elective interventions,” said A. Bilotienė-Motiejūnienė.

Isolation will be decided by the family doctor

With the end of the emergency, compulsory isolation is no longer mandatory. According to the Deputy Minister, this means that the family doctor will decide how long you should continue to be on sick leave, whether for two or five days.

“It will all depend on your condition and the GP’s assessment. Of course, in complicated cases or in the event of complications, you go to the health care facilities where services are provided for people with COVID-19,” commented Ms Bilotiene-Motiejūnienė.  

When asked whether a patient with COVID-19 would be able to visit a live clinic, she indicated that this would also be decided on an individual basis.

“It is foreseen that the doctor can take a decision, whether it is a remote consultation or a live consultation. This is obviously determined by the state of health and whether the facility has the capacity to safely accept a patient with a fever,” the Deputy Minister explained.    She noted that vaccination remains a coronary registration point and can be registered at primary health care facilities and through e-health.

Ginreta Megelinskienė, a specialist from the Health Promotion Unit of the SAM, added that from now on, the National Public Health Centre (NVSC) would no longer carry out an epidemiological investigation for each COVID-19 case.

“This means that each case will no longer be interviewed, and there will no longer be a need to fill in a case questionnaire online, but outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring in social care institutions will be investigated. And, if health care facilities need assistance in investigating outbreaks, the NHSC will also be able to provide assistance there,” she said.

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