Baltic states reopen shared borders for travel bubble

Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reopened their shared borders on Friday, allowing citizens to move freely for business and pleasure in a travel bubble after two months of coronavirus restrictions. 

The sister countries, which are members of the European Union and the passport-free Schengen zone, had been closed since mid-March to all traffic except commercial cargo and returning citizens.

Their borders with Belarus and Russia remain sealed however, with military patrols reinforcing regular guards. 

“The reopening of Baltic borders is an important milestone. Hotels and restaurants are looking forward with renewed hope,” said Janis Pinnis, head of Latvia’s hospitality association.

“We’re already seeing the first reservations come in,” he told public broadcaster Latvijas Radio.

Ticket sales for international bus travel between Baltic cities are back up and running, while flights between the countries are expected to resume at the end of the month. 

Also happy to see borders reopen are Latvia’s “alco supermarkets” which have sprung up in recent years to cater to Estonians and Lithuanians crossing over for cheaper, lower-taxed alcohol.

“Let’s hope that reopening the borders brings back our neighbours, starting today,” said the cashier at the Alko 1000 Market warehouse just a short distance from the border in the Latvian village of Grenctale. 

Over the last couple months, “only locals had been coming in. Our liquor store’s income has gone down tenfold,” she told AFP.