Latvia has opted to reduce its self-quarantine period for arrivals from countries on its coronavirus high-risk list, including Estonia, to 10 days, from 14. The change primarily focuses on Latvian citizens and residents returning from other countries.
Latvian authorities imposed the quarantine provision on arrivals from Estonia last Friday as the latter's reported coronavirus rate risk for the preceding 14 days exceeded by some margin the 16 per 100,000 inhabitants ceiling, effectively bursting the so-called Baltic Bubble zone of free travel in place since May. Despite calls to raise the rate to 25 per 100,000, a move Estonia made last week for arrivals from Finland and the Baltic states, Latvian authorities stuck by their guns.
The country has a notably lower reported COVID-19 rate at a little over 4 per 100,000, than other countries in the region; Estonia's reported 14-day rate now exceeds 25 per 100,000.
Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs confirmed the move in a tweet, and health minister Ilze Vinkele said at a press conference following the cabinet meeting where the decision was made that since Latvian society is very responsible and understanding, the country can function in the same way as it had done before COVID-19, Latvian public broadcaster LSM's English page reports.
"It affects our movement outside the country," Vinkele said.
"Precisely because [Latvian] society is so conscious, we have been able to take a step that reduces the number of days of self-isolation required for fellow people returning from abroad," Vinkele said, adding the amendment's positive effect on the economy as a reason.
Government of Latvia has decided to change self-isolation requirement from 14 to 10 days to those individuals who are arriving from #Covid_19 affected countries (all with cumulative rate of infections 16 or above cases per 100000 inhabitants in the last two weeks)— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) September 15, 2020
Head of Latvia's Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) Jurijs Perevoščikovs, said that the move also reflected the fact that the disease is still relatively new and so engagement with it is still on a learning curve, noting that the international experience remains that those who contract the virus often recover within 10 days.
The 14-day rule will still apply to arrivals who have been in previous contact with COVID-19 carriers, and people in at-risk professions such as healthcare.
Another exception, albeit in the other direction, applies to residents of Valga, on the Estonian side of the border with Latvia; they can freely travel to Valka, next door on Latvian territory, though not beyond its confines, without quarantine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte