'Baltic Bubble': Rules for traveling from Estonia to Latvia and Lithuania ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

A queue of trucks at the border crossing point at Ikla in South Estonia during the emergency situation.
A queue of trucks at the border crossing point at Ikla in South Estonia during the emergency situation. Source: Verner Vilgas/ERR

As of May 15, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have opened their internal borders and allowed free movement for their citizens and residents, creating a zone dubbed the "Baltic bubble" or "travel bubble". ERR News has put together a guide for each country.

Last week the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania agreed to reopen internal borders on May 15 and restore freedom of movement between the three states.

The complete text can be read here, and ERR News has summarized the information below.

  • Free movement is restored for "residents of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia and for people staying there legally".
  • This applies to citizens or those who have permanent residency or a residence permit.
  • A 14-day quarantine period will not apply when crossing a border;
  • People can only travel if they show no symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19);
  • A person must not have left the country they are coming from in the previous 14 days;
  • A person arriving from a third country - outside of the "bubble" - must abide by the previous rules and isolate for 14 days before they can travel to another Baltic State.

Click to jump to the rules for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

On Friday, the memorandum of understanding will be signed in Riga by the foreign ministers of the three countries, which stipulates the general framework for a trilateral abolition of restrictions on movement introduced due to the COVID-19 crisis, and cooperation between the states.

Regulations

Social distancing requirements - the 2+2 rule and face coverings - are in place in all three countries.

Latvia 

The Latvian-Estonian border can be crossed at the Valka-Valga and the Ainaži-Ikla border-crossing points. 

The state of emergency is in place until June 9. The 2+2 rule must be observed.

It is obligatory to use mouth and nose coverings on public transport; this can be a scarf, shawl, disposable mask, fabric mask (washable, reusable), respirator, etc.

Stores and shopping centres are open, providing that they comply with the safety requirements.

Leisure and entertainment venues, including restaurants, are open from 7 a.m. until midnight.

Cultural venues are open, but with social distancing restrictions. Tickets for museum entrance must be purchased online.

An overview of Latvia's restrictions can be viewed here.

The latest news in English can be viewed at LSM.

The Latvian government's public information page about coronavirus can be seen here.

Emergency telephone number: If you develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, you should immediately call 8303 and inform the health care provider about your symptoms, and of any recent travel movement.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Website can be viewed here.

Lithuania 

Lithuania can be entered at the Saločiai - Grenstale, Butinge - Rucava and Smelyne - Medume border crossing points.

The 2+2 rule is in force, except for families. Gatherings are permitted of up to five persons who are not members of one household, for no longer than 15 minutes. 

Wearing facemasks is no longer mandatory in public, except in shops and most indoor public spaces.

From May 18, all indoor places, including restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, casinos and entertainment venues, will be allowed to open between 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Hairdressers and nail parlors, outdoor cafes, libraries, museums, parks, botanical gardens and zoos are open, but mostly to small groups.

The latest news in English can be viewed at LRT. A timeline of the easing of restrictions can be viewed here.

For more information visit the government's Korona Stop website which gives an overview of the situation in the country in English. An overview of the current rules in place can be found here.

Residents of Poland are allowed to enter Lithuania for work, business or studies from May 15. Poland itself is keeping its borders closed to foreign citizens to June 12.

Emergency telephone number: COVID-19 Hotline in Lithuania 1808.   

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Important information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Estonia

The Latvian-Estonian border can be crossed at the Valka-Valga and the Ainaži-Ikla border-crossing points. 

Facemasks are recommended to be worn in public, but not mandatory.

The 2+2 social distancing rule is in place, meaning groups of two can move around in public with a 2-meter gap between them.

Restaurants and cafes are open but are abiding by the 2+2 rule. Shops are limiting the number of customers who can enter at one time.

Shopping centres and hotels are open. Public transport is running to the usual schedule.

Outdoor exhibitions spaces are open to groups of up to 10; parks, beaches and nature trails are open.

Is preferable to pay by card rather than in cash.

Finns can enter Estonia for work, study or for family reasons without being required to stay in isolation from May 14. See the government's statement here.

Emergency telephone number: You can call the coronavirus hotline on 1247 for more information. In an emergency, or if your health suddenly deteriorates, call the emergency services on 112.

Information: More information can be found here and on the government's crisis website. The Ministry of Foreign Affair's website is here.

Coronavirus Overview

Despite having the smallest population of the three Baltic States (circa 1.3 million), Estonia has the highest number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in absolute terms at 1,766, and the highest number of deaths (63), as of May 15.

Latvia (population circa 1.9 million) has 970 cases and fewer than 20 coronavirus related deaths since the pandemic began.

Lithuania, with a population of almost 3 million, had diagnosed 1,523 cases of coronavirus as of May 15. Fifty-four people have died of Covid-19 in the country so far, and another six coronavirus-infected patients have died of other causes.

The country declared a state of emergency at the end of February, before both Latvia and Estonia, after diagnosing its first case.

All three countries have high levels of testing.

Since the start of May, the daily rate of newly diagnosed cases in all three countries has generally been below 15 each.

Data can be found here for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Note to readers

This is the first time any of us at ERR News have covered a crisis of this scale before. It's a learning curve for all of us. If we've made any mistakes let us know. Feedback is welcome, as are suggestions for data we can show or stories we can tell. Email: helen.wright@err.ee

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Editor: Helen Wright

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