RIGA - As of this Thursday, all travelers arriving in Latvia using services of international transport companies will be registered in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, the government decided at an extraordinary meeting today.
Initially the travelers' data will be recorded on paper but a digital solution will be worked out in the next couple of weeks to register the incoming travelers electronically. The requirement to register will also apply to persons arriving in Latvia on private planes and yachts.
Janis Citskovskis, director of the State Chancellery and head of the Cross-sectoral Coordination Management Group, briefed ministers on how incoming travelers are controlled in Latvia during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Citskovskis informed the government about the control of persons who have arrived in Latvia from countries with the highest Covid-19 incidence, noting that there is already a high number of persons who are being monitored by Latvian authorities and than several of them have already been penalized for flouting the 14-day self-isolation requirement.
The government approved the working group's proposal to create within two to three weeks a digital system for the registration of incoming travelers, but before the registration system is ready, all incoming travelers arriving in Latvia by plane, ferry or bus will be registered on paper. "Preparing survey forms will create an extra administrative burden, but we can launch such a traveler control mechanism already tomorrow," Citskovskis said.
All incoming travelers will be required to fill out a questionnaire which will then be processed depending on each traveler's country of origin. The obtained data will be forwarded to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the State Police. The ministers agreed that the travelers' data will be deleted 14 days after their submission.
Economics Minister Janis Vitenbergs (KPV LV), currently standing in for the interior minister, informed that the data of travelers arriving from countries with a low Covid-19 incidence will be collected by the respective transport company and the information will be sent to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, whereas data from travelers from countries with a high Covid-19 incidence will be collected by border guards who will send the information to the State Police.
Health Ministry state secretary Daina Murmane-Umbrasko said that the purpose of the survey will be to establish which countries the traveler has visited in the past 14 days before arriving in Latvia.
The ministry official indicated that the new provision on traveler surveys, which will be effective starting Thursday, July 16, will not be applied retroactively, which means that the persons who have already arrived in Latvia will not surveyed.
Transport Minister Talis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) said that the electronic registration system will be worked out by Riga Airport. The minister noted the necessity to provide border guard resources to the airport, as currently there are no border guards at the airport to register the international arrivals. Linkaits said that some 2,000 incoming tourists are currently surveyed at the airport per day but that in coming weeks the number might grow to 5,000.
Citskovskis noted that the registration of travelers on paper will not solve the problem as many non-EU citizens use private transport vehicles to arrive in Latvia from Estonia, for instance, but that the electronic registration of all incoming travelers will solve the problem.
A representative of the Data State Inspectorate warned that the government can take a political decision on the surveying of travelers but that the measure might amount to breaches of human rights and the EU data regulation. However, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) stressed that while the Data State Inspectorate's task is to protect people's data, the government must protect people's lives.
The government also agreed that Latvian temporary residence permits will only be issued to citizens of countries where the Covid-19 incidence is low.