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"By opening the internal borders, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have restored the ‘little Schengen’ in Europe. Starting today, the six million inhabitants of Baltic countries will be able to freely move across the internal borders between countries as long as they comply with virus containment restrictions. Latvia needs it as Lithuania and Estonia are our strategic trade partners", - Latvian president Egils Levits states in his statement.
Egils Levitas
Egils Levitas
© AFP / Scanpix

As the president continues in his speech, the Baltic region stands out as the least affected region in Europe. Latvia and other Baltic countries imposed restrictions early on and that is how we evaded a massive spreading of the virus. Awareness and discipline among people, as well as smart government policies, allowed us to contain the spread of the virus and keep it at a low level.

"Europe and the rest of the world have begun to relax restrictions and map the economic recovery. However, there are stark differences between countries and their future policies. While most of Europe and the world is under the heavy spread of pandemic with hundreds of thousands of new infections and deaths recorded each day, some countries like Latvia are able to control the spread of the virus with significant success.

Although cautiously, the Latvian government decided to relax the restrictions some days ago. On some occasions, the pandemic has receded so quickly that some countries have decided to abandon restrictions altogether. But it is absolutely clear that because Latvia imposed rigorous restrictions and people more or less abided by them, we are better off in terms of the virus outbreak.

We should not forget that virus is still around. Easing of measures will mean more contact between people and that increases the likelihood of further surge of the virus. There is no doubt about that", - continues he.

People need to stay responsible

The president says that to avoid a rapid resurgence of the virus, or at least make it less rapid, countries need people to be responsible and comply with restrictions as closely as possible, especially when it comes to social distancing and keeping 2 metres away from each other. Moreover, personal responsibility is important, but people should also caution others who are less careful about social distancing. We need to keep the virus at bay until a vaccine is available.

"Relaxing restrictions is a ‘vote of confidence’ in our people’s ability to self-discipline and restrain. It is a credit of trust. If society fails, and the infection goes back to pandemic again, we will have to lock down again. Please be mindful that recklessness and carelessness can have a heavy toll on us. There are people’s lives at stake. That is too much of a gamble.

"That people have seen so far is that we are able to rely on each other when it comes to taking responsibility for our society. We are responsible and that allows us to start thinking about swifter economic recovery already now", - E. Levits points out.

Time for reforms

The president continues that this is the reason why the Latvian government must gather all its wits and foresight.

"We cannot just consume or spend the funding earmarked for crisis recovery. The government must invest these funds into Latvian economy and society – into better living after the crisis. These investments must yield sufficient returns. Monies made available must go into the promising areas, fields and companies. Restructuring and transformation must be all about upskilling and reskilling. Social assistance must be provided to those who really need it", - he adds.

Moreover, E. Levits urges government for tax, legal, educational and science reforms.

"We, the people of the Baltic, have restored free movement in our area. Our ‘little Schengen’ is the first area in Europe where internal borders that were closed two months ago are being reopened. That is what Europe does best. That is how member states work together. We hope that other neighbouring countries will follow the suite and other regions of Europe will reopen their internal borders soon.

Our economic recovery will be swifter because Latvia was tremendously disciplined in containing the pandemic. With Baltic countries championing the recovery of Europe, we will see stronger Europe in no time",- he speaks.

DELFI EN
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