Foreign minister: A window to reinstate the 'Baltic bubble' has opened
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ERR that the recent equalization in the infection rates of the Baltic nations has opened a window to again reinstate the so-called Baltic bubble for travel within the region.
Reinsalu discussed the possibility of the Baltic bubble on Sunday evening with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Edgars Rinkevics and Linas Linkevicius, respectively.
Reinsalu told ERR in early-October that the reinstatement of the Baltic bubble can only happen if the countries reach a common plateau. As of Monday, Estonia's infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days stands at 46.5.
According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Latvia's infection rate is at 51.8 and Lithuania's is at 62.2.
Reinsalu said: "I predict that this convergence will take place and it is reasonable to try to reinstate the Baltic bubble. As we have a similar epidemiological situation, we will not establish quarantines on each other for decimal places."
The foreign minister added. "Currently, it is like a photo finish where one has to quarantine on one day and the other might have to quarantine on another. I think this just is not reasonable."
Reinsalu said he presented an option to reform the so-called bubble and its model. "Take today's situation as the basis for it and then take a flowing corridor that states that if it does not get too crazy in one country, we maintain this bubble."
He did not wish to comment yet on which infection rate intervals this corridor would be set to as health experts for each country need to discuss it as well.
The foreign minister added that all Baltic states have rhetorically expressed readiness to reinstate the Baltic bubble but the monitoring of infection rates has been the obstacle so far. "It is like we have been hostages to this number. If numbers have been different among the countries, it is difficult to achieve this common model. In my opinion, now the window of opportunity has opened and should be tried."
The international restriction-free travel region was first opened on May 15 after the situation surrounding the epidemiological situations in the Baltic states had calmed considerably. Information about the initial "bubble" agreement can be read here on ERR News.
Latvia effectively "burst" the travel bubble last month after Estonia and Lithuania's two-week average rose above 16 per 100,000.
Reinsalu said on September 11 that Estonia had asked Lithuania and Latvia to raise the 16 cases per 100,000 people threshold for keeping the travel bubble alive but Latvia disagreed. Latvia did introduce a number of exceptions, including for people traveling for work who are expected to prove employment in Latvia.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste