Social affairs minister: Estonia complied with Baltic bubble agreement ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik at the Center Party Congress on August 22, 2020.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik at the Center Party Congress on August 22, 2020. Source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

Estonia has complied with the agreement between the three Baltic states regarding the so-called "Baltic bubble" and informed Latvia and Lithuania of exceptions made within the state, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said on Monday.

"Estonia has complied with the agreement to impose a two-week self-isolation requirement on people arriving from at-risk states. Pursuant to the three states' agreement, all parties are allowed to make domestic exceptions to representatives of specific professions or on the basis of special conditions. Thus, we have also launched testing at the airport and port, as proposed by the COVID-19 scientific council, which is also implemented in many European countries," Kiik was quoted by ministry spokespeople as saying.

"An exception has only been made from September 1 to people working in Estonia to enable their faster return to work, and we also informed the other Baltic states of the fact that we're offering such an option," he noted.

The thee states' agreement includes a section enabling the Baltic states to establish special conditions with regard to the 14-day self-isolation requirement for passengers who enter the Baltic states from other EU and third states, the Ministry of Social Affairs said.

All three states have used this opportunity. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have also made additional special decisions regarding air traffic to ensure the movement options needed by their people.

"The lion's share of anti-coronavirus measures - such as the organization of testing within the state, provision of health care and social services, organization of cultural life and education, participation restrictions on public events, possible restrictions on alcohol sales, mobile apps geared at curbing the spread of the virus - will be decided by each individual state, according to the agreement," Kiik said. 

Kiik's comments were made after the Latvian government suggested last week that Estonia and Lithuania had not been following the agreement.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins voiced regret that despite an earlier agreement, the Baltic states have been applying epidemiological safety requirements differently, which has resulted in higher COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania and Estonia. 

Both countries have seen an increase in infections in recent weeks putting them over the 16 per 100,000 limit for quarantine-less travel between countries. Latvia agreed not to impose 14-day isolation periods on anyone crossing it borders from either countries after their infection rates dipped just below 16 on Friday.

On May 6, the Baltic states agreed to open their borders to one another from May 15.

The three states' health ministers agreed in a joint statement that the states' permanent residents will be able to move freely within the Baltics and they will not be subject to 14-day self-isolation or COVID-19 testing requirements provided that they are not required to self-isolate in their home state, have not been in any state outside the Baltics for the past 14 days and do not exhibit any virus symptoms.

Self-isolation and testing requirements can be imposed only upon arrival from outside the Baltic states or onset of respiratory disease symptoms.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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