Lithuanian Parliament Moves Online As Coronavirus Bites
VILNIUS: Lithuania’s parliament held its first sitting online on Tuesday as part of efforts to curb a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections.
The Baltic nation of 2.8 million people had the highest rate of infections in the 27-member European Union in the two weeks ending on Sunday, with 1,199 cases per 100,000 people, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed.
Only parliamentary speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen and her staff were physically present in the chamber, while lawmakers all connected to the proceedings via video chat from their offices elsewhere in the building or from home.
“It was important, as members of parliament continued to fall ill, to create conditions for the parliament to continue working,” said Cmilyte-Nielsen, who has had the virus herself.
Lawmakers were asked to identify themselves by entering a code on their mobile phone before each vote and to have their picture taken on their laptops immediately afterwards to confirm their identity.
“It was quite unusual to chair a meeting with an empty hall instead of 140 people,” Cmilyte-Nielsen told Reuters. “I really hope and wish that in the spring we can return to our usual way of life”.
Four lawmakers out of 141 were ill with COVID-19 as of last week, one of them in hospital. At least six others, including the speaker, have had the virus since the current parliament took its oath on Nov. 13, local media have reported.
Five lawmakers complained on Tuesday they were unable to cast their vote at the first division due to technical problems.
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