Latvian PM says Baltic travel bubble to end as COVID-19 cases in neighboring countries mount

Free travel inside the territory of the three Baltic states, or the so-called Baltic bubble, is about to end this week as COVID-19 cases are mounting in Latvia’s neighbor countries Lithuania and Estonia, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said Wednesday.

As Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia succeeded in bringing the coronavirus under control in May, they agreed to lift mutual travel restrictions and create the Baltic bubble in which people could move freely without self-isolating after crossing the countries’ borders.

The three Baltic countries also agreed on uniform safety measures that would be implemented to keep COVID-19 infections in check.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania has already exceeded 16 cases per 100,000 population over the past 14 days, and the infection rate in Estonia might cross that mark in a matter of days.

According to the COVID-19 rules currently effective in Latvia, all travelers who arrive in Latvia from countries where the cumulative 14-day COVID-19 incidence exceeds 16 cases per 100,000 population are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The application of that rule to arrivals from Lithuania and Estonia would mean an end of the Baltic travel bubble. Lithuania and Estonia have asked Latvia for a temporary exemption in a bid to save the travel bubble, but Prime Minister Karins said that Latvia would not ease the self-isolation requirement, citing the need to protect public health.

Latvia revises its list of countries to which travel restrictions are applied on a weekly basis. The national Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) is due to release an updated list this Friday.