Latvia imposes travel restrictions on Estonia

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu. Source: (Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Flickr)

While the Finnish government has decided that Estonians can continue traveling to Finland based on recent principles, Latvia will not be raising its case rate threshold, meaning that people traveling to Latvia for purposes other than work or transit must isolate for two weeks upon arriving in the country, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said at a press briefing on Friday.

The Finnish government decided that the current situation where Estonians can freely travel to Finland will remain in place until September 18. After that, Estonia's 14-day coronavirus case rate for 100,000 people must not exceed 25 for people to be able to travel freely, Reinsalu explained.

"This means that if we can keep our case rate below that level, there will not be travel restrictions. If it gets above 25, measures will be taken," he said.

Should the case rate in Estonia exceed 25, people traveling to Finland will have to isolate for two weeks or get tested as an alternative. Testing in Finland is similar to the process in Estonia, meaning double testing upon entry and again a few days later, the foreign minister explained.

"It is important to note that even if the case rate exceeds 25, restrictions will not be applied in the case of workers. Travel restrictions will apply to people who travel to Finland for personal reasons, mostly tourism," Reinsalu added.

Latvia refused to change its threshold

The minister explained that Estonia asked Lithuania and Latvia to raise the 16 cases per 100,000 people threshold for keeping the Baltic travel bubble alive, which Lithuania agreed to do but Latvia did not at this time.

"Lithuania will decide today to hike the [travel restrictions] threshold to 25 that will take effect on Monday (September 14 – ed.)," Reinsalu said.

The Latvian government discussed Estonia's proposal and said it is willing to change the Baltic bubble cooperation system but added that it will stick to its current threshold until that change happens, Reinsalu explained. The Latvian healthcare authority will publish new country data on Friday afternoon, meaning that the recent situation will no longer be valid from midnight. This means that travel restrictions will apply to Estonians going to Latvia from 00:01 on Saturday morning, the Estonian foreign minister said.

People traveling to Latvia for personal reasons will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. People need to fill out a health form upon entering the country and isolate for two weeks. Those who want to shorten the two-week quarantine period by returning to Estonia will have to notify the Latvian police and wear a mask while traveling from their quarantine location back to Estonia.

Plethora of exceptions also for Latvia

Latvia will introduce a number of exceptions, including for people traveling for work who are expected to prove employment in Latvia.

People traveling to Latvia to obtain basic, high school or university education are also exempt from restrictions.

Thirdly, the self-isolation requirement does not apply to people going to see a doctor in Latvia if they can produce a referral. The restrictions also do not concern people taking care of relatives or attending funerals.

Fourthly, the isolation requirement can be ignored if a person is simply passing through Latvia, whether by air, land or sea. "In that case, the person needs to move through the country in 12 hours without spending the night," Reinsalu specified.

The Latvian government has also made an exception for the residents of the border town of Valga/Valka who can cross the border freely provided they have not left their municipality's territory in the past two weeks.

People in all of these groups need to meet certain health requirements. They must not show symptoms of illness, should avoid excess social contact and wear masks in public places. "That requirement will also enter into force tonight," Reinsalu said.

USA, Russia cut off

People in Estonia, with the exception of a few small groups, are virtually prohibited from traveling to Russia and Belarus. Travel to the USA is also unavailable because the administration's rules mean people entering cannot have been in the Schengen area in the past two weeks.

As far as European countries are concerned, Hungary is closed to EU citizens, with the exception of specific groups. Ukraine allows Estonians to enter but requires coronavirus health insurance. Egypt and Georgia allow Estonians entry but require a PCR test.

Reinsalu promised that the foreign ministry will answer people's general travel-related questions and make available special contacts on its website where people can find answers to more specific questions regarding Latvia travel.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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