Economics Ministry wants to ditch self-isolation in Latvia

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The Ministry of Economics (EM) wants to replace the 10-day self-isolation after returning from abroad with extensive COVID-19 testing, said Deputy State Secretary Raimonds Aleksejenko to Latvian Television September 23.

Asked whether EM still insists on increasing the 10-day cumulative COVID-19 incidence rate threshold (from the current 16 to 25 infections per 100 000 inhabitants), after which self-isolation should be observed when entering the country, Aleksejenko said that the Ministry would actually like to replace self-isolation with testing.

According to him, there is no support for increasing this threshold. “We supported an increase, but we are not the Ministry of Health,”  the EM spokesman said, adding that the discussion will continue. The main focus in the negotiations will be on replacing self-isolation with COVID-19 tests.

These tests could be carried out at the airport immediately after returning from the land listed among countries of self-isolation.

The main discussion was how this testing would be delivered and how much it would cost, said Aleksejenko.

He said that in the tourism sector, Rīga hotels are particularly affected by the crisis. Some hotels have stopped their activities, but it is important that businesses do not go bankrupt.

Aleksejenko said that the state aid for the tourism sector to overcome the COVID-19 crisis is only a “cushion” and will not be able to replace business revenues. There is work on the EM agenda on additional support measures.

The main aid measures currently under assessment relate to removing travel restrictions; additional guarantees to prevent banks from targeting workers in the sector; support for wages and heating obligations. It is also planned to start talks with Riga City Council in order to raise issues related to real estate, said Alekseyenko.

Representative of Radisson Hotel Network in Latvia, Janis Priede, said that the situation in Rīga hotel business is sad. Radisson Blu Latvija will conclude this year with a loss of €3.5 million, and the dismissal of 50% of its employees.

Aleksejenko said that the crisis will radically change people's behavior and travel habits. Priede also believes tourism will no longer be the same as before. However, according to the Radisson representative, everything needs to be done to support the sector. Otherwise, Riga will no longer be a destination for foreign tourists because there will be no adequate infrastructure, namely, hotels.

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