VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania began minting a collector's coin, dubbed a "coin of hope", on Wednesday to mark the year of the new coronavirus and pay tribute to doctors, nurses and others who helped the country weather the pandemic.
The coin has the phrase "after darkness, I hope for light" written around its edge in Latin. It features a shaft of light illuminating the year 2020 and spelling out SOS, the international distress signal, in shadow.
"We wanted to say 'thank you' to the medics, the medical workers, public transport drivers, to thank teachers who worked at a distance, the shop workers and those who stayed in self- isolation and kept the virus from spreading," said Asta Kuniyoshi, deputy governor of Lithuania's central bank.
"So the coin is a coin of hope because, even at the darkest point, we believed that by staying together we would reach the light," she said.
The coin is minted in silver with a nominal value of five euros and in copper and nickel with a nominal value of 1.5 euros.
The bank decided on the coin in March, when the country went into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, partly to reuse blanks intended for coins to mark the cancelled events of 2020, including the Tokyo Olympics.
Lithuania, with a population of around 2.8 million, and its fellow Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia have been relatively unscathed by the new coronavirus so far. To date, Lithuania has confirmed 1,778 cases of COVID-19 and 76 deaths.
Lithuania lifted most lockdown restrictions in May, but the central bank still expects the economy to contract by 9.7% this year. [nL8N2CW8Y0] [nS3N28800T]
(Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Gareth Jones)