Restrictions on cross-border commuting to Latvia to be eased from Monday

Valga-Valka.
Valga-Valka. Source: ERR

From Monday, commuting across Estonia's border with Latvia permissible, provided the individual has returned negative on a coronavirus test within the preceding seven days, the government says.

The exemption was drawn up to alleviate issues for residents of border regions such as Võru County, many of whom need to cross the border for employment purposes.

The regulation requires that the individual crosses the Estonian-Latvian border at least twice per week, for the purpose of work or study.

The individual must provide proof of a negative test within the previous seven days, or alternatively, proof of having received a coronavirus vaccination.

The government approved the amendment, which takes effect on Monday, May 3.

The current regulations require a 10-day self-quarantine period, which can be shortened by passing negative on a coronavirus test, provided the border-crossing was in pursuit of essential work tasks.

In practice this meant that people crossing the border even once in a week would have to take at least two coronavirus tests (bearing in mind Latvia's regulations also) and quarantine while awaiting their results, which had become burdensome.

Other COVID-19 best practices, including social distancing, mask-wearing, use of disinfectants and quarantining if unwell or identified as a coronavirus close contact will still apply for both cross-border employees and their employers, after Monday.

In spring and summer 2020, exemptions had both been applied on the border at the twin towns of Valga (Estonia) and Valka (Latvia) and between all three Baltic States as a whole – the so-called Baltic Bubble, which was dismantled amid rising coronavirus rates last autumn.

While Estonia's foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets recently said she would like to hold discussions on re-inflating the Baltic Bubble, Lithuania's prime minister, Ingrida Simonytė, has said the EU's planned coronavirus green passport, just approved by the European Parliament, should be sufficient for the purpose.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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