Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Latvia maintains COVID-19-related restrictions as of July 21; self-isolation upon arrival mandatory for travelers from certain countries.

  • Alert Begins: 21 Jul 2020 06:22 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 15 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Authorities in Latvia are maintaining a number of travel and business-related restrictions with certain modifications as of July 21 as part of the nation's effort to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Nationals of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, and the UK may enter Latvia for any reason, including tourism. Moreover, following an EU recommendation, Latvian authorities are permitting entry to travelers from Algeria, Australia, Georgia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay without requiring them to self-isolate.

Any person entering Latvia from a country in which the 14-day cumulative incidence of COVID-19 is greater than 16 cases per 100,000 persons of population must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Nations within the EU and EEA which fall into this category include Luxembourg, Sweden, Portugal, San Marino, Bulgaria, Romania, Andorra, Croatia, Iceland, and Spain. Individuals traveling on business must self-isolate outside working hours. However, travelers do not need to self-isolate if they have stayed in a country with a COVID-19 incidence lower than the defined threshold for at least 14 days immediately prior to entering Latvia. Moreover, the government in Riga has also implemented a new process to assist with tracking travelers arriving on international flights. As part of that process, such persons must complete a questionnaire concerning their health and travel history, and affirm that, upon arrival, they will abide by all COVID-19 related epidemiological safety measures.

Travel from all other countries is prohibited, except for immediate family members of Latvian nationals, diplomats, individuals in transit, and freight workers. Restrictions remain in place at the border with Belarus and Russia.

Aside from the travel-related directives in place, authorities have slightly tightened certain restrictions on the operations of restaurants and other food service establishments due to a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Since July 10, such businesses must limit the number of patrons from different households to four per table in indoor seating areas, and eight per table in outdoor areas; they must also close by 2359 nightly.

Previous measures have allowed most businesses and facilities in Latvia to reopen provided strict hygiene and social distancing measures are implemented. The size limit on public gatherings has also be eased. Face coverings are no longer mandatory in enclosed public spaces, but are strongly recommended.

Any restrictions could be reimposed, extended, further eased, or otherwise amended at short notice, depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The measures are similar to actions taken by other European governments easing COVID-19 restrictions. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. As countries relax blanket restrictions across Europe, authorities could begin to reintroduce sporadic, highly targeted measures in response to local COVID-19 outbreaks.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they could prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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