Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others' citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic "travel bubble" within the European Union (EU) amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on Wednesday.
The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travelers as the novel coronavirus spread across the continent.
"Agreed on opening of internal Baltic borders from May 15 and free movement of our citizens," Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins wrote on Tuesday on his Twitter account.
Considering the successful containment of #COVID19 across Baltics, in call with @ratasjuri and @Skvernelis_S agreed on opening of internal Baltic borders from May 15 and free movement of our citizens. The citizens arriving from other countries have to obey 14 day self-isolation.— Krišjānis Kariņš (@krisjaniskarins) May 6, 2020
"The citizens arriving from other countries have to obey 14 day self-isolation."
"We have agreed that all three Baltic states have properly contained the spread of the coronavirus, and we trust each others' health systems," Lithuania's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernlis wrote on Facebook.
"So, starting from May 15, we are removing all restrictions for citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveling between the Baltic states."
People entering the region from other countries will need to self-isolate for 14 days, he also added.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all major trading partners with each other, are also taking cautious steps to re-open their economies after lockdowns imposed as local outbreaks struck.
The region is part of the European Union since 2004 and the European free-travel Schengen Area since 2007. Estonia and Lithuania closed their borders to non-citizens during the outbreak and all three nations imposed mandatory quarantines on anyone entering for non-work-related reasons.
Meanwhile, the new COVID-19 cases have slowed to a trickle recently with none of the countries reporting more than 5 new cases on Tuesday. Since the start of the pandemic, Lithuania has recorded 48 deaths in the disease, Latvia 17 and Estonia 55.
EU recommends lifting border controls
The European Commission has recommended that internal border controls between all member states should be lifted in a coordinated manner, once their virus situation converges sufficiently, the commission's office in Lithuania said.
Moves to selectively open borders has also emerged elsewhere. Australia and New Zealand are working towards resuming travel between them, tough the efforts toward creating a common travel area could take some time.