Ex-president: unlike Sweden, Latvia’s residents will not move an inch if they are not whipped – Baltic News Network
Unlike Sweden, Latvian society does not listen to recommendations and “starts moving” only when you “whip them”, said Latvian former President Valdis Zatlers in an interview with the LTV program Rīta panorama.
The ex-president believes that the Latvian government was late in deciding to limit the spread of Covid-19. He also says that the people of Latvia failed to mobilize and reach 70% vaccination coverage by the autumn.
Zatlers believes that the government’s indecision and excessive concern for democracy are the factors that hindered efforts to combat the pandemic. The ex-president emphasizes that Covid-19 “does not care about democracy”.
Therefore, decision-making was reduced by one or two months.
The ex-president also says that it was not a mistake to include general practitioners in vaccination efforts from the beginning. Too much time was spent convincing GPs who were reluctant or against vaccination.
“GPs’ work with patients, when they contact their patients and invite them to be vaccinated, is much better than letting rumors spread,” Zatlers concluded.
He agrees that it is difficult to strike a balance between the rights and interests of vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents. But for the benefit of the whole of Latvian society, restrictions should be much stricter for all residents, regardless of their vaccination status.
The situation also suffers from the fact that epidemiological experts have ended their cooperation with the government. The reason – politicians would not listen to them. “Did any epidemiologist say anything stupid during the pandemic?” Not once! It is the people who understand the situation better than most. Those who bear the brunt of this pandemic are healthcare professionals, not politicians, Zatlers emphasizes.
The ex-president believes that Latvia’s politicians do not see a pattern and do not understand that people expect decisive action. The battle for a place in the 14th Saeima will change next summer, when hopefully Latvia finds a way out of the Covid-19 crisis.
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Regarding the confusion over the fact that Sweden does not use strict restrictions on human freedom, but Latvia does, Zatlers says that it is important to remember the differences in people’s mentality, values and behavior in both countries.
“If we compare Latvia with Sweden, people there listen to recommendations and stick to them. People in Sweden do not need to be whipped into doing something. On the other hand, we have come to the conclusion that people rarely listen to recommendations. Nobody does anything until you take out the whip, says Latvia’s former president. He also stressed that when it comes to the risk of certain sectors ending up in the gray area under stricter restrictions, it is important to remember that this is not something new – it is already a reality. But even if they cause anger and frustration, restrictions force people to get vaccinated.
Zatlers believes that the government’s decision to allow only people with a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate to enter supermarkets will not yield a quick result. The reason is that there are no guarantees that all service providers are vaccinated.
«Restrictions should be much stricter. Although I personally do not like the benefits of vaccinated people would be limited, we must remember the benefits for our whole society. It is impossible to vaccinate all workers in a couple of weeks. If 100% of the employees are vaccinated, it is safe. But if not everyone is vaccinated, there are no guarantees. There are still dentists and cosmetologists in Latvia who are not vaccinated, says Zatlers.
The politician believes that an effective solution would be to let each resident help control compliance with restrictions.
He says some eateries do not ask customers to provide certificates. The reason is that they do not want to lose customers. People should react to such situations.
“We need a high degree of mutual control, which is something that is observed in countries with high vaccination coverage,” says Zatlers.