Latvian foreign minister: The 'Baltic bubble' is not just for numbers

Edgars Rinkevics.
Edgars Rinkevics. Source: Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics told ERR in response to Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu's recent call to reinstate the "Baltic bubble" that in order to do so, other restrictions set by the countries should also be taken into consideration, not just the infection rates.

ERR News wrote on Monday that Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) had recently discussed the possibility of reinstating the restriction-free travel region across the three Baltic states with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Edgars Rinkevics and Linas Linkevicius, respectively.

As the viral situation in all three countries has surged in recent weeks, infection rates have almost equalized, with Estonia's being 46.5, as of Monday. Latvia's and Lithuania's respective rates are 51.8 and 62.2, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday that Latvian epidemiologists and politicians have considered public safety the main priority during the coronavirus pandemic and a general recommendation to avoid travel unless necessary has been set in the country.

The Latvian government has not discussed reinstating the Baltic bubble, as they are currently discussing which restrictions and regulations to establish to alleviate the general spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Krišjanis Karinš has called together a crisis committee, who is set to meet on Tuesday morning.

Reinsalu, however, sees the current time a perfect one to reinstate the travel zone. "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 minister said.

Reinsalu 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."

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics repeated Latvia's stances to "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Rinkevics said: "We see the Baltic bubble as not only a bubble for numbers, but also for methodology and more or less, a harmonical solution to solve epidemiological problems. We must consult our health ministry on this topic. Similar numbers, as we once agreed to, are just one part of it. The other part is an agreement on a similar epidemiological approach - isolation requirements, testing and etc."

An opinion is spreading among Latvian healthcare experts that a lockdown similar to the one in spring should be avoided. At the same time, outbreaks such as a 60-case one in a school in Riga, must be controlled.

Uga Dumpis, chief infectologist of the Latvian Minsitry of Health, said: "We will not survive a situation similar to the one in spring. But we know that closed rooms, bars and parties are the dangers. We also know how to limit the spread of this disease."

Starting Monday, all travelers to Latvia must fill in an electronic form 48 hours before crossing the border. Those who do not could face a fine.

On Friday (October 9) Latvia changed its rules for self-isolation, abandoning the list-based system previously in place and instead benchmarking countries against its own infection rate.

As of October 10, "only people travelling direct from the Vatican, Norway, Finland and Cyprus in Europe will be able to do without a 10-day quarantine regime," public broadcaster LSM reported.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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