State of emergency extends north

The government ruled Tuesday to declare a state of emergency in Latvia’s eastern and northern border areas following confirmed cases of African swine fever (ASF) near Valka Friday.

A state of emergency for monitoring and quarantine measures against ASF is now in effect for the districts of Rēzekne, Ludza, Viļaka, Balvi, Rugāji and Baltinava in eastern Latgale province along the border with Russia, as well as Aloja, Mazsalaca, Ape, Alūksne, Rūjiena, Naukšēni, Burtnieki, Kocēni, Beverēna, Strenči, Priekuļi, Rauna and Smiltene in northern Vidzeme province by Estonia. In addition, Pelēči and Aizkalne parishes in Preiļi district, and Riebiņi, Rušona and Silajāņi parishes in Riebiņi district were also put under the state of emergency.

The territories now added to the state of emergency essentially cover Latvia's entire land border with Russia and Estonia. The Agriculture Ministry's website displays the following map:

The government-declared state of emergency was approved by Saeima July 3 for the whole territories of Dagda, Kraslava, Zilupe, Aglona, and Cibla districts, as well as numerous parishes in Daugavpils, Rezekne and Ludza districts. A ban on all public events is in force until October 1 in these areas, in addition to the monitoring, quarantine, culling, burning and burying measures.

The Cabinet’s decision comes just hours after Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s warning on LTV’s morning news program of possible “major losses” to Latvia’s economy unless the ASF outbreak is contained.

According to newswire BNS, the state Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) will be taking preventive measures on pig farms situated in the territories included in the ASF emergency zone until 2018. For the time being, no additional budget allocations are needed for these measures because the Agriculture Ministry has already reallocated money from other programs under its supervision.

The government also endorsed amendments to a decree toughening biosafety standards for pig owners whose farms are situated in the emergency zone. The decree bans farmers from keeping swine on these farms for at least a year in order to stop the ASF virus from spreading.

While the state of emergency in the affected areas is taking effect immediately, technically the government's decision has yet to be approved by Saeima. Most likely, lawmakers will approve it at its scheduled extraordinary plenary session Thursday.

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