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Coronavirus: Lithuania deploys police checkpoints to enforce holiday lockdown

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Lithuanian police check a driver at Kalvarija-Budzisko border crossing with Poland on March 15, 2020, before frontiers were closed during the first coronavirus wave.
Lithuanian police check a driver at Kalvarija-Budzisko border crossing with Poland on March 15, 2020, before frontiers were closed during the first coronavirus wave.   -   Copyright  PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP
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Police in Lithuania said on Tuesday that they were putting in place 250 checkpoints on roads across the country, designed to ban people from travelling over the holiday period to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Journeys are banned in the Baltic country from Wednesday until January 3, as the authorities try to persuade people from visiting friends and relatives over Christmas and New Year.

The only permitted exceptions to staying at home are to go out to work, to see a doctor or to a funeral.

"We are targeting this weekend, Christmas and New Year," said the country's police chief Renatas Pozela.

Although Lithuania succeeded in controlling the first wave of the pandemic better than other EU countries in the spring, it has not managed to stem the second wave which has seen infections soar.

In a new series of measures, the government has ordered most shops and hairdressers to close from Wednesday, and is calling on people to stay at home.

Bars and restaurants have been closed for over a month and offer only take-out services.

A country with a population of 2.8 million, Lithuania has reported nearly 97,000 COVID-19 infections, including 863 deaths, since February.

According to recent figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Lithuania is among the worst-hit countries in Europe with incidence rates over 1,000 per 100,000 population.