Latvian government approves penalties for quarantine rule-breakers

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Latvia's government on July 15 approved a range of potential penalties for arrivals to the country who do not comply with required anti- COVID-19 measures such as self-isolation.

Latvian Television reported that a special cabinet meeting has supported amendments to the regulatory framework that will allow temporary residence permits and visas to be revoked for third-country nationals who violate self-isolation rules. Violators will also be able to be fined up to € 2,000.

As previously reported by LSM, a meeting on Tuesday failed to agree on all measures proposed by the Interior Ministry, necessitating a second cabinet meeting today.

Brieifing the press via videolink at the conclusion of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said that bearing in mind the continuing prevalence of COVID-19 internationally, the intention was to ensure that Latvia's level of infection remained low compared to many other countries and that protection of society's health and safety remained the government's priority.

"We recognize that one of the real potential risks comes from people travelling to Latvia from areas of high risk or countries where the prevalence of the disease is much higher than in Latvia and within Europe's secure borders," Kariņš said.

"Now the government has taken clear and understandable control measures," he said, which should ensure that people go into quarantine when necessary and can be checked upon by police and healthcare officials to ensure they comply with the 14-day requirement. After 14 days there is no longer a risk of spreading the disease to the wider population and "with these measures we have ensured that," Kariņš said.

Far from providing a brake on the economy, the imposition of strict controls would help in the long run, he explained.

"Our joint interest is to keep the illness as small as possible and so not to threaten our economic development and today's decisions on control mechanisms for arrivals to Latvia is an absolutely correct step in that direction," he said.

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs confirmed that holders of residence permits who broke quarantine rules could expect to have their permits revoked and visa holders would face having their visas cancelled by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP). However, he also pointed out that as it was a legal matter, it would require approval from Saeima.

In addition, long term "D-visas" will not currently be issued to persons from countries that are above the EU average number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of population. That figure is currently at 16 and according to the Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

The measures are "appropiate and adequate" Rinkēvičs said, and should address concerns expressed by the public about arrivals from other countries potentially bringing the coronavirus with them.

From Thursday, July 16, arrival to the country using the services of international carriers will be registered in Latvia. The requirement to register will also apply to those arriving in Latvia by private planes and yachts. At first, this will take the form of paper and ink while an electronic system is put together, which could take several weeks. Random checks will be part of the enforcement regime.



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