Ex-president: unlike Sweden, Latvia’s residents won’t move an inch unless whipped

Unlike Sweden, Latvia’s society doesn’t listen to recommendations and «starts moving» only when you «whip them», said Latvia’s ex-president Valdis Zatlers in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorāma.
The ex-president believes the government in Latvia was late with decisions on limiting the spread of Covid-19. He also says residents in Latvia failed to mobilize and reach 70% vaccination coverage by autumn.
Zatlers believes the indecisiveness of the government and excessive worries about democracy are the factors that impeded efforts to battle the pandemic. The ex-president stresses that Covid-19 «doesn’t care about democracy».
This is why decision-making was slowed by a month or two.
The ex-president also says not including general practitioners in vaccination efforts from the start was a mistake. Too much time was spent on convincing general practitioners who were reluctant or against vaccination.
«General practitioners’ work with patients, when they contact their patients and invite them to vaccinate, is much better than letting rumours spread,» Zatlers concluded.
He agrees it is difficult to reach a balance between the rights and interests of vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents. However, for the benefit of all of Latvia’s society restrictions should be much tougher on all residents regardless of their vaccination state.
The situation also suffers from the fact that epidemiological experts have terminated cooperation with the government. The reason – politicians wouldn’t listen to them. «Did any epidemiologist say anything stupid during the pandemic? Not once! They are the people who understand the situation better than most people. The ones who carry the full burden of this pandemic are healthcare workers, not politicians,» stresses Zatlers.
The ex-president believes Latvia’s politicians do not see any pattern and do not understand that people expect decisive action. The fight for a place in the 14th Saeima will change next summer, once, hopefully, Latvia finds a way out of the Covid-19 crisis.
Read also: Heads of churches in Latvia support Covid-19 vaccination; promise to invite community members to vaccinate
In regards to the confusion over the fact that Sweden does not use tight restrictions of people’s freedom but Latvia does, Zatlers says it is important to keep in mind the differences of people’s mentality, values and behaviour in both countries.
«If we compare Latvia to Sweden, people there listen to recommendations and stick with them. People in Sweden don’t need to be whipped into doing something. We, on the other hand, have come to the conclusion that people rarely listen to recommendations. No one does anything until you pull out the whip,» said Latvia’s ex-president. He also stressed that when it comes to the risk of some sectors ending up in the grey area in the event of tougher restrictions, it is important to keep in mind that this is nothing new – it is already a reality. However, though they cause anger and frustration, restrictions force people to vaccinate.
Zatlers believes the government’s decision to let only people with a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate to enter supermarkets will not yield a quick result. The reason is there are no guarantees all service providers are vaccinated.
«Restrictions should be much tougher. Although I personally don’t like the advantages of vaccinated people would be limited, we have to keep in mind the benefits for our entire society. It is impossible to vaccinate all workers in a couple of weeks. If 100% of employees are vaccinated, then it is safe. However, if not all of them are vaccinated, there are no guarantees. There are still dentists and cosmetologists in Latvia who are not vaccinated,» says Zatlers.
The politician believes an effective solution would be letting every resident assist with control of compliance with restrictions.
He says some eateries do not request customers to provide certificates. The reason is because they do not want to lose customers. People should react to such situations.
«We need a high degree of mutual control, which is something observed in countries with high vaccination coverage,» says Zatlers.