Estonia, Lithuania shut borders to foreign visitors

Published March 15, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

Estonia and Lithuania said Saturday they will shut their borders to most foreign visitors while fellow Baltic EU member Latvia imposed security measures of its own to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis (pictured May 2019) said the country has decided to reinstate checks on its borders with Latvia and Poland, becoming the fifth nation to do so within the bloc's zone of free travel (AFP Photo/Petras Malukas)
Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis (AFP Photo/Petras Malukas/ FILE)

“The government has decided to temporarily reintroduce border controls on the whole border,” Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said in a government statement.

The measure will apply starting Tuesday in the country of 1.3 million people which has registered 115 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Only citizens, individuals with residence permits and foreigners with a family member in Estonia will be allowed in but will have to undergo two weeks of isolation.

Foreigners will still be able to pass through Estonia to get to their country provided they show no symptoms of the virus. The same goes for cargo transporters.

There are no restrictions on leaving the country.

The government had earlier decided to close down all schools, museums, cinemas, leisure centres, sports clubs and banned all public gatherings until May 1.

Fellow Baltic state Lithuania for its part decided to ban foreigners from entering the country of 2.8 million people starting 1000 GMT on Sunday, with the exception of individuals with a residence permit, diplomatic workers and NATO troops.

“Our goal is to delay the spread of the virus as long as possible inside the country and to reduce the negative consequences,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said Saturday.

Freight transport will not be affected, he added.

Lithuania, which has nine confirmed COVID-19 cases, has been on partial lockdown since Friday after the government shut down all schools, kindergartens and universities and banned large public events.

From Monday, the ban will also cover most shops, restaurants and pubs, although food delivery will be allowed. The measure does not concern grocery stores and pharmacies.

Skvernelis said his cabinet will approve an economic stimulus plan on Monday worth “at least one billion euros”.

Neighbour Latvia, with a population of 1.9 million people and 26 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, said it will suspend all international flights, ferries, buses and trains from Monday.

“Border crossings by private car will continue, as well as international freight and cargo flow,” Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits told reporters.

Most of the measures will apply for a couple of weeks but will likely be prolonged according to Baltic authorities.