Latvia to close borders to passenger traffic on Tuesday 17 March

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Latvia will go into an effective national lockdown on Tuesday, March 17 when it closes its international borders to all organized passenger traffic on land, sea and air, following further anti-coronavirus measures announced March 14.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced the new measures following meetings of the cabinet and Crisis Management Council on Saturday afternoon. 

While organized passenger traffic such as buses, trains and airliners will be suspended at midnight on Monday night [00:00 Tuesday morning], the flow of goods will not be restricted to ensure shops can be restocked and services can be provided.

It will still be possible to travel within the European Union on a private basis (e.g. in a private car), as the right to free movement is enshrined in EU law, though leaving the country is not recommended at the moment. Latvia's external EU border with Russia and Belarus will be shut to both organized public transport and private transport, however.

The full list of measures is available in the attachment to this story and on the official government website also in English translation.




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In addition the restrictions will not apply to military transport and the Transport Minister will be empowered to make exceptions on an individual basis regarding public transport within EU borders and the Foreign and Interior Ministers will have the right to make exceptions with regard to the external EU border. 

"The purpose is very simple… to do the most we can to protect our residents from the COVID-19 virus," Kariņš told reporters. 

Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said transport companies were being informed of the decision and full details would be published on the Transport Ministry website. He also urged Latvian residents who are currently in other countries to return to Latvia as soon as possible. Following the imposition of the new restrictions, Latvian citizens and declared residents will still be allowed back into the country.

In addition, Kariņš announced that all organized public events are banned until future notice and "unorganized"  or spontaneous events including cultural, sporting and religious gatherings can have a maximum 50 participants.

Final school examinations will be postponed until May.

Shortly afterwards Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs tweeted the news.

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele repeated advice about the importance of washing hands regularly and maintaining "social distance". She also suggested people plan their shopping trips in advance and to take advantage of off-peak hours to minimise the number of people with whom each individual will come into contact. Under no circumstances should people go to work with flu-like symptoms, she said. 

"The main thing has not changed – every person must take responsibility for their health," Viņķele said.



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