With the Covid-19 incidence in Estonia exceeding 16 cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, Latvia has placed this neighboring country on the so-called yellow list, which means that when returning from this country, self-isolation must be observed. This applies not only to the residents of Latvia who have visited or been working in this country. This requirement must also be observed by Estonian residents if they come to Latvia for leisure or work.
Covid-19 outbreaks in Estonia – mostly in isolated locations
The figures calculated by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for Estonia in recent days do not give hope for a rapid exit from the Covid-19 high-risk area. On Wednesday, the cumulative number of 14-day cases in Estonia was 24.4 per 100,000 population, yesterday 24.7 cases per 100,000 population. This means that in the coming weeks, the requirement for self-isolation when entering Latvia from Latvia is likely to apply. However, an analysis of Covid-19 data by region shows that Covid-19 does not spread throughout Estonia. The largest share of these cases in recent weeks has been in the Narva area – even more than 120 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, no new cases of Covid-19 have been registered in Valga, Pelva and Järva districts since the end of August, according to koroonakaart.ee data.
There is still uncertainty in Valka region
The people of Valka waited with concern for Estonia to be included in the yellow list, as some Valencian people crossed the Latvian-Estonian border almost every day. Some went to work, others to study, but others were interested in looking at the shops in Valga. A car with an Estonian number was not uncommon in Valka either. “Residents of Valka and Valga municipalities are subject to a special regulation, which stipulates that residents declared in Valka and Valga municipalities do not have to observe self-isolation, and currently the municipality has no information that the daily life of residents has changed significantly since last Saturday. The situation is more complicated for people who work, for example, in Tartu. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of uncertainty among the population about how the new regulation really works, because only Valka and Valga were often mentioned in the media. Here, it is important to emphasize that the regulation applies to all residents of Valka and Valga municipalities, not just the city, ”said Ivo Leitis, a public relations specialist at Valka County Council, to the Independent.
The chairman of Valka County Council Vents Armands Krauklis, walking through the center of Valka last Saturday, concluded that the movement of people in the border towns of Valka and Valga has significantly slowed down. Usually, cars with Estonian numbers are often seen on holidays in Valka, and both Valka and Valga are full of people on Saturdays, but during the holidays in Valka, Vents Armands Krauklis shared his impressions with LETA.
Some stores have become empty
Observations of the State Police show that in Vidzeme region, for example, there were far fewer Estonian citizens in the supermarkets last weekend than before. The number of buyers is also forecast by border alcohol traders. On the other hand, the number of buyers in grocery stores has not decreased. Maxima Latvija’s analytics department, analyzing data for Maxima stores in the three Estonian border towns of Valka, Salacgrīva and Rūjiena, has concluded that the inclusion of Estonia in the yellow list has not affected the turnover and number of purchases of Maxima stores. “This shows that a stable and predictable flow of customers in these stores is created by the local population,” Liene Dupate, Communications Manager of Maxima Latvija, told Neatkarīgā.
Cars with Estonian numbers were often seen at the IKEA store in Riga, but their number had dropped significantly last weekend. For example, on Saturday at around 11.30 at the IKEA store in Riga, only one car had an Estonian number out of a total of 30 cars in the parking lot at that time. On previous holidays, about a third of the cars usually had an Estonian number at this IKEA store.
Inga Filipova, the head of IKEA Latvija, explained to the Independent that the majority of Estonians use the site ikea.lv to purchase IKEA goods, as well as places to order and receive goods in Estonia. However, according to her, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed shopping habits not only in Latvia and Estonia.
“In the context of the pandemic, we have noticed that people are paying more and more attention to the layout of their homes, because most people spent more time at home than ever before. Housing had to be adapted to changing needs and made even more multifunctional, such as a place to work and study, and sports at home became commonplace for many. There are other popular items in every season, for example, when an emergency starts, and now, at the beginning of the school year, there is a great demand for office furniture and equipment. The emergency also affected buyers’ habits. Now purchases tend to be scheduled on time and people stay in the store for a shorter period of time – shoppers take the necessary goods, pay for them and leave. However, as can be seen, the desire of Latvian residents to furnish their own housing did not decrease. On the contrary, people took more care of their homes. During the emergency situation, some buyers developed the habit of shopping online and using remote services, ”said I. Filipova. However, her observations also show that a large number of buyers
Online shopping cannot be a complete substitute for physical store visits and face-to-face consultations. Therefore, with the renewal of direct customer service, the number of visitors to the IKEA store has increased.
Tourists are forced to turn to Estonia
Many Latvians were looking forward to the lifting of the state of emergency and the opening of the borders. This was especially important for businessmen and passionate travelers. The tour operator Novatours, taking into account the current situation in Latvia and the world in the tourism industry, at the beginning of the summer began to offer Latvians the opportunity to relax in neighboring countries, including Estonia, and some travelers used this opportunity.
Novatours only helped travelers to Estonia find the best hotel deals. Unlike our usual travels, we do not offer transport services, excursions or anything that our clients are already used to when traveling abroad. Already last week, the demand for this neighboring country decreased and was quite low, But we can not judge the industry as a whole, “said Leonid Mochenov, the head of the tour operator” Novatours “, to the Independent. He admitted, however, that the decline in demand may have been influenced by the beginning of the school year and other factors.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also introduced significant changes to Tallink’s usual routes. Due to the pandemic, the company had to suspend cruises to the Swedish capital Stockholm, including Tallinn and Riga. “2020. On June 26, 2006, when the new temporary route Riga – Helsinki was opened, the ship “Silja Serenade” sailed from Riga to Helsinki every other day. Additional cruises or charters on this route were also organized with the ship “Romantika”. Since yesterday, the Silja Serenade has been replaced by the Baltic Queen. The ship will leave Riga on Thursdays, when Latvian travelers will have the opportunity to go on a cruise by returning to Riga on Saturday. In turn, it is possible to go in the same direction every Thursday and Saturday with departure from Riga. Such a cruise schedule with the ship “Baltic Queen” has been approved until January 2, 2021, however, “Tallink” reserves the right to make changes to the cruise schedule and routes, “said Esēnija Zīriņa, Public Relations Project Manager of Tallink Latvija.
According to her, as the autumn and winter seasons approach, the number of passengers decreases. It has been every autumn and winter, and it must be taken into account that the pandemic is still going on.
And although Latvia and Finland currently maintain the status of a relatively safe country for travel, which is an additional argument for traveling in both directions, the number of passengers is decreasing on all Tallink Grupp routes, including the Riga-Helsinki route. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which we have experienced over several months, is significant, and the results have generally not reached the plan, ”admitted E. Zīriņa.
In the second quarter of 2020, Tallink Grupp experienced a record decrease in the number of passengers on all its regular routes, several ships had stopped regular services. Half of the vessels in the company’s fleet, which continued to operate in the second quarter, mainly engaged in cargo transportation. At the beginning of the summer, in response to the situation, the company reorganized shipping, created new routes, which allowed it to remain competitive and had a positive impact on the results of the third quarter. “The impact of the pandemic on the company as a whole is really significant,” emphasized E. Zīriņa.
The Estonian language will be heard less often in hotels
The inclusion of Estonia in the yellow list essentially crosses the line for the possibility for Estonian travelers to visit Latvia. According to the current procedure, when they arrive in Latvia, they have to go in self-isolation – so no museums, cafes, tourist attractions. So far, and especially this year, guests from Estonia and Lithuania have been most interested in watching Latvian nature, staying in hotels and dining in pubs.
Data compiled by the Central Statistical Bureau show that in June, following the lifting of travel restrictions from neighboring Estonia and Lithuania, there was a sharp influx of tourists. The number of guests from Estonia in June, compared to June of the previous year, has increased by 5.6%, but in July, compared to July of the previous year, the increase has been as much as 64%. At the same time, the total number of tourists who came to visit Latvia decreased dramatically.
In the 2 nd quarter of 2020, 170.8 thousand foreign and local guests were served in Latvian tourist accommodation establishments, which is by 78.1% less than in the 2 nd quarter of 2019, in July 298.9 thousand guests stayed in hotels and tourist accommodation establishments, which is 25.3% less than in July last year. The largest decrease was in April (a decrease of 93.6%). With the end of the emergency on 10 June and the resumption of operations at a large number of tourist accommodation establishments, the number of guests in June increased fourfold compared to May, reaching 127.6 thousand guests. When the flow of tourists from Estonia is interrupted, the number of guests in Latvian hotels and guest houses is also likely to decrease.