From March 17 onward Latvia will resume air traffic to and from third countries. Charter flights will be permitted as well, as Latvia’s government decided on March 9.
At the same time, however, all unimportant travel from third countries to Latvia will remain banned.
Latvia’s government viewed amendments for rules on epidemiological safety measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 in relation to lifting the ban on air traffic from third countries on February 26. However, decision-making was postponed multiple times because of uncertainty with this topic.
Transport Ministry notes amendments are needed because other countries, such as Lithuania and Estonia, permit passenger transports to and from third countries. This is why in practice the situation in Latvia is that passengers perform travel using transit options through neighboring countries or on land. By permitting controlled passenger transports for important travel using flights through third countries it is planned to improve tracing of passenger traffic and its control for epidemiological purposes.
Transport Ministry explains that data after lifting the ban on travel to and from other EU member states, Eurozone member states, as well as the Swiss Confederacy and the UK show that the ban of international passenger transports does not affect the total number of emerging Covid-19 cases, because the number of infection cases brought to Latvia from abroad is small, especially when it comes to aircraft transports.
The biggest number of Covid-19 cases this year was brought in using private transports – 130 new Covid-19 case were brought to Latvia in January (26 using aircraft).
Lately, with respect to the additional requirement to present negative Covid-19 test results prior to boarding, the number of Covid-19 infection cases brought to Latvia from abroad kept reducing each week.
Transport Ministry notes that people traveling to Latvia by car have a higher chance of failing to fill in the Covidpass.lv electronic form. These people may come into contact with other people in Latvia and other countries when traveling by car, which may lead to increase of infection cases and limit traceability. The ministry stresses that direct flights offer a good and easier option to trace the influx of passengers.
As arguments in favor of lifting the ban the ministry mentioned that many passengers that arrived in Latvia using air traffic came from third countries and they passed in transit, which means they were subjected to multiple checks. On top of that, the reopening of the aviation sector is an important condition to ensure economic growth.
The ministry also informed the government that Economy Ministry together with Latvian Tourism Agency and Operators Association were busy working on a strategy for gradual restoration of unimportant travel, including charter flights. Soon additional amendments will be presented.
As previously noted by the Civil Aviation Agency, international passenger transports to third countries have been banned since March 2020.
The only short-term exception was Georgia, to which the EU permitted flights temporarily. However, changes to Latvia’s regulations on flights to third countries have not been added since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020. (BNN/Business World Magazine)