A “Baltic bubble” allowing free travel between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia came into operation today in the latest attempt by European countries to help their economies rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
Residents of the neighbouring EU nations will be free to travel within the region, though anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
“The Baltic Travel Bubble is an opportunity for businesses to reopen, and a glimmer of hope for the people that life is getting back to normal,” Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said in a statement as the borders opened at midnight.
Estonia’s interior minister Mart Helme added: “There is no reason to fear that opening the border will cause the spread of the virus.”
New infections in the three countries have slowed to a trickle, while fewer than 150 coronavirus deaths have been recorded. The European Commission warned, however, that EU states’ travel policies should not discriminate between different members.
Finland and Poland have also been invited to join today’s new “Baltic Bubble” but have yet to do so. The move came as Germany eased its border controls with Austria, France and Switzerland today.
Elsewhere in Europe, Slovenia became the first European country to declare an end to its coronavirus epidemic, after authorities confirmed less than seven new cases each day for the past two weeks.
People arriving from other EU states will no longer be obliged to go into a quarantine for at least seven days.
The country of two million people, which borders Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, has so far reported 1,464 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths. It declared an epidemic on March 12.
Prime Minister Janez Janša said the country had “tamed the epidemic” and claimed it had “the best epidemiologic picture in Europe”. Financial support provided to Slovenians and firms hit by the impact of the virus will be halted at the end of this month.
Meanwhile, France has unveiled an €18 billion package of financial support for its tourism industry including direct state investment, loans and a “solidarity fund”. It has also told its citizens that they can go on holiday in July and August but only in France itself or the overseas territories.