Residents of the border town of Valga will be exempt from quarantine requirements when entering Latvia, should Estonia's coronavirus rate place it on that country's list of COVID-19 high-risk states, the Latvian government decided Tuesday.
The move aims to head of complications which would arise from putting in place restrictions given shared business and other links between Valga and the neighboring town of Valka, on the Latvian side of the border, and echoes similar exemptions put in place early on in the coronavirus pandemic in spring.
The Latvian government made the decision Tuesday, stipulating that the exemption only applies to residents of Valga and Valka, when they are moving within the twin towns' municipalities.
Valka residents who have in the past 14 days been elsewhere in Estonia, will still have to quarantine on return, if Estonia gets added to Latvia's coronavirus high-risk list; Estonian residents from outside Valga would in that case have to do the same when crossing the Latvian border.
Latvia has among the lowest current COVID-19 rates in Europe, reported at little over four per 100,000 residents.
Last Friday, the country's government opted not to impose quarantine requirements on individuals arriving from Estonia as the latter's reported rate crept towards the 16 per 100,000 ceiling.
Latvia's health ministry cited mutual resources, business, cultural and other links between the two towns as the main factor in the decision. Without it, around 2,000 residents of both towns would have to quarantine simply because they do business or engage in other day-to-day cross-border activities.
In mid-March, as the two countries moved towards closing their borders due to the spread of COVID-19, a decision was made to make an exemption for those crossing at Valga/Valka for work purposes.
All three Baltic States opened their borders up to mutual free movement in mid-May, the so-called "Baltic Bubble".
The exemption is included in Latvia's COVID-19 regulations ahead of Estonia being added to the high-risk list, if and when that happens.
Citizens of both countries in fact live on the other side of their own borders, with over 1,000 Latvians declaring their residence to be Valga (Estonia), and some Estonian citizens registered resident in Valka (Latvia).
Border checks were removed within the town after both countries joined the Schengen Area, though the two towns' residents already had an exemption ahead of that.
Latvia requires those returning from a country with a recorded COVID-19 infection rate over 16 per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days to quarantine at home for two weeks, updating the list each Friday, just as Estonia's foreign ministry does.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) set Estonia's 14-day level at 16.38 last Friday, with Lithuania's recorded at 16.1 per 100,000.
Editor: Andrew Whyte