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Flu epidemic declared in 14 Lithuanian municipalities

• 2019-01-29

VILNIUS - An influenza epidemic has already been declared in 14 out of Lithuania's 60 municipalities as in the number of flu and acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) cases continues to rise in the country.  

The town of Alytus and the districts of Panevezys, Raseiniai, Salcininkai and Telsiai declared a flu epidemic on Tuesday and the city of Klaipeda plans to do so on Wednesday.

Other affected municipalities include the cities of Kaunas and Panevezys and the districts of Elektrenai, Prienai, Ukmerge, Ignalina, Kedainiai, Jonava and Trakai.  

The National Public Health Center recommended on Monday that the district of Kaisiadorys be added to the list, too.  

Lithuania’s overall flu and acute upper respiratory tract infection (URI) incidence rate reached 155.2 per 10,000 inhabitants on January 21 to 27, up from 127.7 a week ago.

Analysts predict further growth in labor immigration in Lithuania this year - BNS THEME


VILNIUS - Analysts predict that the number of labor immigrants in Lithuania will continue to grow this year, despite critics' concerns that this may slow down wage growth.

The Lithuanian Employment Service issued 8,400 work permits to foreigners in January-November 2019, a 70 percent increase from a year earlier. More than half of foreign workers come from Ukraine. 

The service attributes the increase to simplified work permit and visa issuance procedures, and labor shortages in some sectors.

"The number of foreign workers in Lithuania is likely to increase next year (in 2020) amid a shortage of qualified labor force in the country. They fill job vacancies where no Lithuanian or EU citizens are available," the service told BNS at the end of 2019. 

Linas Cekanavicius, a professor of economics at Vilnius University, says most foreigners, especially the less skilled ones, come for higher wages, but the country attracts some Western business people, too. 

"Most people come here because wages in Lithuania are better than in their country. However, there are people, including those from Western countries, who come here because of better business opportunities," the professor told BNS.  

"They find a niche here or (...) offer something more interesting, different, something that is available in their country, but isn't in ours," he added. 

The Employment Service last year issued documents to foreigners from a total of 58 countries. Sixty percent of them came from Ukraine, 21 percent from Belarus, 3 percent from Russia and Uzbekistan each, and 2 percent from China and Georgia each. 

Most of the foreigners come to work as cooks, builders, carpenters, international passenger transport drivers, car mechanics, and forklift drivers. 

The statistics do not include foreigners whose professions are on the list of occupations in short supply in Lithuania and who do not need work permits to work in the country.  

The Migration Department issued a total of 46,100 national visas during the 11 months of 2019, including 34,500 visas for work, compared with 46,130 and 36,040, respectively, in 2018.  

Some 38,560 foreigners were issued temporary residence permits in the 11 months, up from 23,850 in the full year 2018.

No bird flu infected poultry from Poland reaches Lithuanian market - veterinary body


VILNIUS - Amid reports of bird flu outbreaks in Poland, Lithuania's veterinary authority assured consumers on Tuesday that no infected meat has reached the Lithuanian market, but urged poultry farms in the country to take additional preventive measures.

Seven outbreaks of bird flu were confirmed in the neighboring country between late December and January 6, forcing the culling of tens of thousands of birds.

Marius Masiulis, head of emergency response at the Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service, says all affected Polish farms have been isolated, the birds on these farms have been safely destroyed, and their products have not reached either the domestic or foreign markets.

"We cannot be concerned or say that the poultry meat from Poland that has entered our market is unsafe, because we trust the controls of the Polish veterinary authority and we have enhanced our controls, too," he told BNS. 

However, Lithuanian farms are at risk of infection, because the virus can be transmitted by wild birds, the official warned.   

Next week, the European Commission is likely to impose additional measures to prevent the spread of the infection, he said.