Government defers decision on Covid-19 restrictions for international travelers, citing poorly prepared proposals

  • 2020-07-14
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The government today deferred a decision on tougher restrictions for international travelers, citing poorly prepared proposals. 

Today, the Cabinet of Ministers discussed draft amendments to the regulations on epidemiological safety measures for the containment of Covid-19, envisaging tighter visa and residence permit rules in the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Ministers raised no objections to the Foreign Ministry's proposal to suspend the issuance of Latvian visas that are requested based on temporary residence permits held by nationals of those foreign countries where the Covid-19 rate is so high that it can pose a serious public health threat.

However, the ministers were dissatisfied with the Interior Ministry's proposal to oblige foreigners (except citizens of EU member states, countries of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, as well as NATO and EU military personnel) to always have their ID documents on them so they can prove their identity to representatives of state or local authorities.

Citizens of non-EU countries would also be obliged to wear face masks in closed public spaces for two weeks after their arrival in Latvia under the Interior Ministry's proposal. Establishments like shops, cafes, restaurants, as well as public transport are all considered closed public spaces, according to the draft legislation.

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) criticized the proposals saying that problems with international travel cannot be associated with citizens of particular countries but rather with all incoming travelers, including Latvians, who arrive from countries with high Covid-19 rates.

Karins also believes that the requirement for foreign travelers to wear face masks in public would stigmatize these particular individuals. 

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) agreed that in the Covid-19 context, the problem is not a traveler's nationality but the country from which they have arrived in Latvia. The minister said that the proposals have not been properly prepared and that the government is unlikely to agree on them today, which is why Rinkevics proposed discussing them again at the government's extraordinary meeting. 

Justice Minister Janis Bordans (New Conservative Party) also indicated that the Interior Ministry's proposal could be regarded as discriminatory and should be revised. 

After hearing the ministers' concerns, the government decided to resume discussions on the proposals at the government's extraordinary meeting, scheduled for Wednesday,  July 15.