“My responsibility is that people have a job and they can provide funds for themselves, not hope for the state aid. The [situation] in the tourism sector is difficult. Exports are returning to [pre-crisis level], internal consumption is returning. The affected sectors must be supported. It is difficult to allow the economy to grow if Latvia and the Vatican are only two European countries between which travel can happen. I doubt that tourists will be travelling to Latvia if they have to sit in isolation for ten days,” the minister said.
He said that there were no discussions in the government at the moment about any new restrictions. “Our entrepreneurs are exemplary. We're ready for this virus. I also believe that the area of health is important and must be primary, [but] it is important to balance. Both the economy and health can stand side by side,” Vitenbergs said.
The Minister stressed that the recommendations of the European Commission set out that self-isolation should be observed by travelers from European countries where the 14-day cumulative rate reaches 50 people.
“From today, there is no ferry from Riga to Helsinki. Cooperation with Finland has stalled. It is interesting that we are usually a diligent country, listening to the EC recommendations. Other countries followed the recommendation and introduced it. Ten days in self-isolation is too heavy a step. We can talk about testing arrivals,” Vitenbergs said.
The minister also said that he had met with representatives of hotels and tourists over the weekend, who had asked to “let them crawl through to spring”.
“We are in contact with the tourism industry. Hotels and tourists are having it tough. It is important to have a dialogue with banks so that there is no recourse to entrepreneurs who are in difficulty. We have invested heavily in airBaltic, it is important for us that the tourism sector remains. (..) I want to think positive, but I believe that the second wave has reached Latvia. (..). This is the time for change. Before COVID, it was clear we were producing low-value goods. We need to increase productivity,” Vitenbergs said.