Public relations specialist Signe Reinholde returned from a trip on Saturday.
“I knew there would have to be a repeat test. I was ready for it, but I wasn't ready for what I would see there. Because it turns out that the conditions under which the repeated tests are carried out are, to put it mildly, Covid unsafe,” Reinholde said.
Passengers had to wait more than an hour standing in a poorly ventilated hallway, crowding with several hundred other people with minimal possibility of physical distancing. It is more like a "queue for the booze shop in Soviet times" than an epidemiological safety measure, said Signe Reinholde.
On Tuesday, May 18, only one third-country flight arrived at the airport in Riga, from Antalia, Turkey. Therefore, the line of testing was not as long as Saturday, physical distancing could be observed, and the process was moving forward smoothly.
But the arrivals did not hide their frustration that they had to pay €24 from their own pocket to the Gulbja Laboratory for a mandatory test, because they had already carried out checks in Turkey before they departed:
“Cash profit. I'll have to sit there [in self-isolation] for 10 days. Then what's the difference what the result says? No difference!” said one anonymous passenger.
Airport spokeswoman Laura Kulakova explained that the Gulbja Laboratory had been chosen by the airport via a tender procedure. She acknowledged that the crowding of the airport sometimes was an issue.
“The problem really arises when several flights arrive at the same time and the number of passengers being tested reaches 300 or more at the same time. In such a situation, queues are forming. Both the test transfer and the test results must be waited for a long time. Due to restricted spaces, it is difficult to ensure adequate distance and distribution,” the airport spokeswoman said.
Although the airport building is large, testing should be carried out before crossing the border, so only a limited space is available for this purpose.
The airport has informed the government's management group of these problems and proposed to make the process smoother by replacing antigen tests with PCR saliva tests. However, no such decision has been taken for the time being.
Tuesday, following the meeting of the government, the Health Minister Daniels Pavļuts said that the test results could be allowed to be waited for at home or in isolation rather than at the airport. “We think this can be corrected and needs to be corrected. If the Transport Ministry does not do so, the Health Ministry will present such a proposal," he said.