Purchases of cheaper goods, especially alcohol, by Estonians in Latvia has attracted media attention, but a recent decision by the Latvian government to restrict the sale of goods on weekends has seen Latvians from Valka come to the neighboring Estonian town of Valga to do their shopping, newspaper Postimees reported.
The municipality manager of Valka, a town on the Estonian-Latvian border, now expects the Latvian government to grant an exception to border areas from the rule valid since December 5 according to which only pharmacies and stores selling food and basic necessities can be open in Latvia during weekends, and the sale of alcohol and tobacco products is forbidden also at these stores.
As things stand, people living Valka are making use of the exception to the overall quarantine rules awarded to residents of the two neighboring towns to do their shopping in Valga on the Estonian side of the border.
Vents Armands Krauklis, head of the regional duma of Valka, said that when he went to Valga to check out the situation last weekend he saw greater numbers of Latvians than usual near all of Valga's major stores.
This Saturday, however, the numbers of cars with Latvian license plates at the parking lots of Valga's supermarkets were not particularly big.
Krauklis has sent an appeal to Latvian leaders asking for an exception for stores in Valka not only when it comes to alcohol, but also other goods.
"For sure, no exception will be made this week yet. We have to fight for it to become reality before Christmas," Krauklis said.
Spokespeople for stores in Valga on the Estonian side of the border say they could see an increase in purchases made in Valga during the first weekend when the restrictions were in force in Latvia.
"We did see indeed that the number of customers at Valga Rimi grew by as much as over 10 percent last weekend. Also alcohol sales increased substantially -- we saw an increase of almost 200 percent in that. Thus it apparently can be said indeed that this time around, the Latvian government has done a favor to the Estonian economy with its restrictions," Katrin Bats, PR manager for Rimi Estonia, said.
The head of sales at Maxima Estonia, Marge Kikas, said that a certain increase in the sales of alcohol could be noted at their store in Valga.
"Purchases of alcohol are nearly double last year's level. While the restrictions valid in Latvia definitely may play a certain role, when making a comparison with last year it has to be remembered that due to the travel restrictions also purchases by Estonians from Latvia have declined," Kikas said.
The manager of Valga Selver, Esta Jarve, also said that an increase in customer numbers could be seen last weekend.
Editor: Helen Wright