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Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia open their borders for the first time to create a ‘travel bubble’ for citizens amid an easing of COVID-19 restrictions. By Upasana Singh
In Europe’s Baltic region, a ‘travel bubble’ will allow residents of the three countries to travel across borders freely from May 15. In a bid to kickstart economies broken down by the global pandemic, such an arrangement is a first in the European Union.
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The governments of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have agreed to this proposal as they have successfully managed to contain the spread of COVID-19. While Estonia and Lithuania have reported over 60 and 50 deaths respectively, Latvia has recorded 19 victims who have lost their lives. These numbers are far below other Eurozone countries such as Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.
As long as the residents of the republics provide proof of not displaying any Coronavirus-related symptoms, they are free to move between the Baltic states. “Temporarily restored border control and guarding of the state border at the Estonian-Latvian border will stop, and those arriving from Lithuania and Latvia no longer have to stay home for 14 days,” the Estonian government explained in a post on its website. However, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis confirmed that travellers arriving from outside the ‘bubble’ will have to spend two weeks in self-quarantine. He added that the countries showed a good example of opening up only after they successfully dealt with the situation.
“It’s a big step towards life as normal,” Prime Minister of Estonia, Juri Ratas tweeted after announcing the agreement. It will also help regional tourism businesses to stimulate growth in the staggering economies.
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The European Commission has recommended the lifting of internal border controls in a coordinated manner between all member states after their Coronavirus situation is sufficiently under control. Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc.
This type of arrangement might be an emerging trend and a potential way forward in a post-COVID-19 world. New Zealand and Australia are also planning to create a ‘travel bubble’, or what is previously known as the “trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone.”