Foreign minister welcomes Latvia easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has welcomed an easing of coronavirus restrictions by authorities in Estonia's southern neighbor, Latvia.

Latvia has generally pursued a policy of stricter coronavirus restrictions than Estonia since the pandemic began; the most recent easing and the development Liimets was referencing is a rule where arrivals in Latvia who can prove they have had a coronavirus vaccine do not need to quarantine.

Liimets said Friday that: "We are delighted that Latvia has decided to exempt vaccinated persons from its restrictions. With this measure, the conditions in the Baltic countries are one step closer to harmonization."

"Estonia and Lithuania have already exempted previously vaccinated and exhausted persons from the restrictions," Liimets noted.

A "Baltic bubble" area of free movement ran through the summer of 2020; Latvia unilaterally withdrew from the arrangement, effectively ending it since it is sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania.

From an Estonian perspective, free movement is welcome at border towns, particularly Valga, whose Latvian counterpart Valka is part of the same conurbation, while Riga airport is a larger transport hub than Tallinn.

Part of Latvian authorities motivation for the latest easing of restrictions comes from the issue of Latvian citizens returning to the country and having to quarantine, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Eva-Maria Liimets welcomed the return towards harmonization between the three Baltic States, though noted that the three countries have different viral pictures at the moment.

"The spread of the virus in the Baltic region is moving in different directions, and Latvia and Lithuania have recently had to deal with an increased number of infections," she said.

According to current data, Estonia's 14-day coronavirus rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 317.5 (per Health Board, Saturday), while Latvia and Lithuania's rates stand at 453.3 and 599.5 respectively (per Estonian foreign ministry, Friday).

Latvia's threshold rate beyond which arrivals from other countries must quarantine is also set at 50 per 100,000, compared with 150 per 100,000 in Estonia. This means arrivals from only three countries (Iceland, Portugal and the U.K.) are quarantine-free on arrival in Latvia, compared with 10 in Estonia.

Latvian public broadcaster LSM's English-language page reported Thursday that those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to disregard self-isolation after their entry to Latvia from European countries, following a governmental agreement made that day. The quarantine period is 10 days.

At the beginning of the month, Latvia also allowed arrivals from Estonia, crossing the border, to enter for work and study purposes, provided they have returned negative on a COVID-19 test in the preceding seven days.

Eva-Marie Liimets said Friday that the current cooperation between all three Baltic States was good.

"Similar conditions and rules for crossing the border will facilitate movement within the zone and, as at the end of April, consultations are taking place at present, to coordinate positions," Liimets said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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