Border controls have now been introduced in line with emergency measures imposed by the Estonian government as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) started the temporary controls overnight Monday to Tuesday.
Head of the border management bureau Egert Belichev said all preparations had been carried out, meaning the roughly 350-kilometer Estonian-Latvian land border, which delineates two Schengen Area countries, can only be crossed at designated temporary crossings at Ikla, Lillis, Murat and Valga. All other roads which cross the border are now closed, and the measure extends to rail crossings, ports and airports.
"The reintroduction of border control will also extend to ports, airports and the Valga train station, where international traffic takes place. Additional patrols will also be carried out in border areas to check vehicles and documents," said Belichev, noting that entering the country would now take longer than usual.
Who can cross the border?
Following the installation of border checks, only Estonian citizens and those who are resident in Estonia, with an Estonian residence permit or right of residence, may enter the country, as well as any foreign national whose family member fits in the above categories.
Anyone now entering the country must remain in quarantine at home or their place of permanent residence for 14 days and avoid contact with others. Anyone else living at the same address must also self-quarantine.
Exceptions to this concern international freight transport and those providing vital services, such as health professionals, provided they do not exhibit coronavirus symptoms at the time of entry.
Foreign nationals may also transit via Estonia when destined elsewhere, again, if they have no coronavirus symptoms and provided they pass immediately through the country.
"We understand that the situation is very different from usual, but given that many people are already follow the recommendation of staying at home, we expect the same responsible attitude from all those who have come from abroad. This is for the health and well-being of all," Belichev stressed.
Previous similar border controls have in the past been put in place during major high-level visits and for other large-scale exercises.
"The reintroduction of border control requires additional resources to be directed to the Latvian-Estonian border, which is why we will involve PPA personnel in addition to border officials, the Defense League and others," Belichev said.
PPA wants to involve Defense League in guarding state border
Managing the temporary border checks will be aided by up to 150 volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) personnel, the PPA hopes.
"The aim is to prevent the spread of coronavirus in order to protect the people of Estonia, and we will involve effective partners from the Defense League in guarding the border," said Priit Pärkna, PPA director general.
The Ministry of the Interior has forwarded the government a proposal to involve up to 150 Defense League members over the next month, to help ensure border integrity.
The PPA has also involved the Defense League in the temporary reintroduction of border control in the past, for instance during the 2010 NATO Summit and during then-U.S. President Barack Obama's 2014 visit.
"The PPA has also conducted many joint exercises and exercises in conjunction with the Defense League in recent years. Within the framework of major operations such as the reintroduction of border control across the state border, the Defense League is an important partner and aid force for us, and we greatly appreciate the contribution of each Defense League member," Pärkna went on.
Estonian also has a land border with the Russian Federation which already had set border crossings, and a maritime border with Finland; as noted arrivals by sea will be subject to the same strictures as on land and by air.
Editor: Andrew Whyte