Latvian minister says country more cautious when exiting restrictions than Estonia

  • 2020-05-26
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

RIGA - Latvian Health Minister Ilze Vinkele said on the "Valisilm" foreign affairs program of Estonian public broadcaster ERR on Monday that, despite the mini-Schengen area set up between the three Baltic countries, Latvia will remain more cautious than Estonia when easing restrictions.

Vinkele said that the solving of the viral crisis must first take into account the recommendations of experts, after which politicians can make decisions. According to her, Latvia has managed well.

"This global crisis was caused by a virus, a disease. There can be nothing political here. I am convinced that the assessments and recommendations of infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists must be taken into account in resolving the crisis caused by the virus. And only after that can politicians make their own decisions. It has turned out quite well in Latvia. At the very beginning, the recommendations of the specialists were more modest than the will of the politicians to give orders," the minister said.

"Yes, we have quite a number of colleagues in the government who, after the first alarming news came, announced that we would lock everything -- borders closed, people home and the army on the streets -- but we managed to convince them that such an approach was not appropriate for Latvia. Firstly, we do not know how long the crisis will last. And if we start using severe restrictions in the case of a small number of people infected, we will not be able to keep them if the situation lasts, for example, a year. People are not ready for such extreme restrictions," Vinkele added.

That the Latvian government has taken into account the opinion of specialists since the beginning of the crisis is also sensed by the people -- surveys carried out by pollster SKDS also show that health experts are trusted much more than politicians.

"On the whole, Latvia's restrictions have been the most modest of the Baltic states compared to Estonia or Lithuania. Our neighbors decided to close the border, not Latvia. Our choice was not to close the border as both of our neighbors did," Vinkele said.

Surveys show that people have been understanding when it comes to the restrictions.

Cooperation between the countries of the European Union, or rather its absence at the beginning of the crisis, is described in Latvia as chaos. The exception is the Baltic states.

"Ignorance and the need to make quick decisions did not allow for cooperation. However, I would like to highlight the cooperation between my Baltic colleagues. Especially with your minister, Tanel Kiik," Vinkele said.