About 1,000 Latvians remain outside EU, Rinkēvičs says

Latvians are being repatriated with charter flights from across Europe, but more than 1,000 remain outside the EU. Latvia is cooperating with other member countries to help these citizens return, said Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs appearing on Latvian Radio March 18.

People returning from the US are asked to arrive in any EU country while Istanbul is the preferred stop for those returning from Asia and Africa. The minister said that while not everyone will be able to have a dedicated flight to take them home, it is understood that different travel restrictions are coming into force all at once. Rinkēvičs asked people to apply at the Consular Register. 

"I think there hasn't been repatriation on such scale in Latvian history. This will be a lesson for the future," Rinkēvičs said.

He said that while currently the passengers are covering repatriation costs on their own, the ministry is working to have costs covered by the state. Rinkēvičs likewise said that people who started traveling after the first warnings were issued shouldn't be repatriated for free but that some passengers like students should have their costs covered. 

"We are doing all we can to help everyone return. But there are more and more interesting cases arising," he said.

Meanwhile referring to the chaos on the Germany–Poland border where Latvian citizens were crowded expecting to be allowed to cross into Poland (the offer didn't materialize) Rinkēvičs said that during crisis situations decisions often come successively and quickly. "It was an unpleasant episode, but we shouldn't overly dramatize it," he said. He said that Latvia can trust Poland and other EU states as well as NATO.

Raimonds Leikums, a Latvian citizen, contacted LTV. He had returned to Istanbul and was waiting for a flight to Tallinn. He told LTV's morning news show that there's a lot of information right now and it's very scattered. He stressed that he'll go into self-isolation after returning home to protect his relatives.

There were 71 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Latvian territory March 18, up from 60 the day before. 

March 13 saw a raft of sweeping measures introduced in an effort to keep coronavirus at bay as much as possible, with further measures including international travel restrictions announced March 15, and introduced March 17 as previously reported by LSM.

The full rules and regulations are available to read online in English, and all members of the public are urged to read them and comply in a spirit of solidarity. Social interactions are to be reduced to a minimum and frequent and careful hand-washing is urged in a policy characterised as "social distancing".

Relevant information in English is also available at the website of the Disease Prevention and Control Center (SPKC).

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