Reinsalu: 'Baltic bubble' principles need to be reviewed
The coronavirus situation has changed and the principles of the Baltic bubble need to be reviewed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reisalu (Isamaa) said on Friday. The countries want to reach a new agreement by the end of next week.
"My message has been this: The Baltic bubble should be kept. The situation has changed and we need to review the principles of the Baltic bubble. Both Latvia and Lithuania have agreed to this, and health experts are working on what this common model could be so that we can maintain free movement," Reinsalu said while speaking on ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera".
Reinsalu said the movement restrictions currently set by countries, which are determined by coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants for two weeks, are arbitrary. In the Baltics, the figure is 16, in Finland it is eight, and the European Commission has proposed a Europe-wide limit of 50.
"The 16 agreed by the Baltic states in the spring was at some point the average infection rate in Europe," said Reinsalu.
"It is certainly important that we reach an agreement with health experts in the Baltic States, and in itself when we say whether, in principle, any restrictions on international movement are rational - I think they are rational," the foreign minister said.
He said closing borders within the European Union should be avoided.
On Friday, the Latvian government decided not to impose a 14-day self-isolation requirement on arrivals from Estonia and Lithuania this week as both countries were just under the 16 per 100,000 limit. However, it could be introduced in the future and will be reevaluated every Friday.
"If we manage to agree on a new model before the end of next week, it will be good, but if we fail and we have more than 16, it must be taken into account that quarantine will take place," he said.
The European Commission's new suggested target of 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants as two-week average is one idea that must be taken into account.
The 'Baltic bubble' was introduced in May and allowed freedom of movement without quarantine between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Until recently, all three countries had an infection rate below 10, but over the last two-three weeks, the number of new infections in Lithuania and Estonia have risen.
Latvia has an infection rate of less than five per 100,000.
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Editor: Helen Wright