Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Latvia modifies COVID-19 entry requirements as of Sept. 5; some domestic restrictions remain.

Alert Begins 07 Sep 2020 07:20 PM UTC
Alert Expires 02 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Authorities in Latvia have released an updated version of the nation's list of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries that are assessed as having elevated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Effective Sept. 5, San Marino, Hungary, and Norway have been added to the list, meaning that travelers entering Latvia from those countries must now self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. San Marino has been readded to the elevated risk list after health officials in Riga had removed it on Aug. 21 due to an earlier drop in COVID-19 cases.

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 inhabitants must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Nations within the EU and EEA that fall into this category as of Sept. 7 are Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Romania, San Mariono, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. 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. 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 borders with Belarus and Russia.

Travelers from EU and EEA nations not listed above may enter Latvia for any reason, including tourism. Moreover, following an EU recommendation, Latvian authorities are permitting entry to travelers from Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay without requiring them to self-isolate; travelers from Australia must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Aside from the travel-related directives in place, authorities have slightly relaxed certain restrictions on the operation of cultural venues, as well as restaurants and other food service establishments due to a recent decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Indoor cultural events are permitted for up to 1,000 guests, while outdoor events will have a maximum of 3,000 guests, provided they adhere to strict social-distancing regulations; venues will be allowed to stay open until 0200. Restaurants and other food establishments are allowed to have eight patrons from different households per table in indoor seating areas, while the restriction on the amount of guests per table in outdoor areas has been lifted; these establishments are allowed to operate until 0200.

Previous measures have allowed most businesses and facilities in Latvia to reopen provided strict hygiene and social-distancing measures are implemented. 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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