As an easing of measures taken to stem the spread of COVID-19, Lithuania's capital city is permitting cafés and restaurants to re-open with outdoor seating.

Angel of Uzupis (Uzupio) in Vilnius, Lithuania
Cafés and restaurants can re-open using outdoor space in Vilnius © yegorovnick/Shutterstock

The city will now give over much of Vilnius's public space to outdoor seating so that bars and restaurants can trade again. This measure will allow physical distancing to take place, because tables must be placed at least two metres apart under the new rules. Over 160 outlets have already applied to take up outdoor space, effectively turning the city centre into a giant open-air café.

Aerial of the cathedral of Vilnius' old town in Lithuania
Public space will be given over to cafés and restaurants © Mantas Ore/Shutterstock

The capital has a Unesco-listed World Heritage old town of rare authenticity, with pebbled streets that are lined with weather-worn period buildings that hide cafés, boutiques and dainty guesthouses. Called Senamiestis, the narrowness of its streets make it difficult to place seating outside. To solve this issue, 18 of the city’s public spaces, including its central Cathedral Square, have been opened free of charge to accommodate seating from cafés and restaurants, and more are expected to be added over the coming months.

Palace of the Grand Dukes, cathedral and belfry in Vilnius Lithuania
Vilnius is permitting shops and restaurants to re-open with strict rules © Wojtek Chmielewski/Shutterstock

Vilnius has also permitted hairdressers and almost all shops to begin reopening this week with strict rules. The wearing of masks will remain mandatory in all public spaces, and shops must limit the number of customers allowed in at one time. According to the mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, the opening of cafés and restaurants will help the city to “work, retain jobs and keep Vilnius alive.” As a mark of gratitude for their work during the pandemic, public health workers will be given a gift vouchers to be spent on cultural and catering companies operating in Vilnius.

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