The first European pandemic “travel bubble” launched by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania burst on Friday when Latvia stated that a 14-day quarantine was mandatory for all people arriving from Estonia.
It was launched in May of this year to enable safe travel between the three countries. Latvia has reportedly declined travel preparation and placed a 14-day quarantine on visitors from Estonia.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Estonia has recorded 21 novel coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks, exceeding the mandatory quarantine threshold of 16 set by Latvia.
Latvia, which has one of the lowest infection rates in the European Union, has rejected the European Commission’s recommendation to raise the quarantine threshold to 25 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants within two weeks.
Latvian PM Krisjanis Karins, speaking on the same stated that, “This is a decision I am not ready for … I do not think think that society is ready to allow more people to enter Latvia.”
Neighboring Estonia, Lithuania and Finland raised the threshold this week to allow travel between them.
International bus ticket sales were already down 20% last week as people feared the bubble might burst, said Rait Remmel of Lux Express, a regional bus company.
“Demand recovered over the summer, but now people are obviously not going to travel much and we need to cut our routes,” he said.
To curb the spread of the virus, Lithuania has made it mandatory to wear face masks in public buildings and announced restrictions on public gatherings.
“We relaxed and started traveling, gathered together and interacted more. Since the virus was never completely eradicated, it started to spread,” said Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created the first common travel space in the European Union on May 15 to stimulate the economy.