In response to the coronavirus spread, Lithuania is temporarily reintroducing border controls, Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė announced on Saturday morning, adding that foreign nationals without work permits will not be allowed to enter the country. However, the government later specified that it has not yet decided whether to bar entry to foreigners.
“In order to contain the threats of Covid-19, Lithuania is reintroducing controls on the European Union's internal borders as of today by the order of the interior minister,” Tamašunienė said in a press conference, specifying that the measure comes into effect at 18:00.
Only foreigners with work permits in Lithuania will be allowed to enter the country, she said. Meanwhile Lithuanian nationals returning from coronavirus-affected territories will have to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
However, the government later said it was only considering not allowing foreign nationals to enter the country.
Rustamas Liubajevas, the head of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service, has told BNS that only those with Covid-19 symptoms will be denied entry as of Saturday evening.
“We are already not admitting foreigners who show symptoms of the disease and this regime will stay in place after today's decision. But we are currently considering the possibility of tougher restrictions for foreigners, once quarantine is introduced, including the option to bar foreigners from entering altogether,” he said.
Tamašunienė said that the Schengen agreement, which guarantees free movement of people across most of the EU, allows reintroduce border controls for 10 days with a possibility to extend the period.
“Passenger transport by air and by rail is stopped, but free trade regime continues, cargo trucks will be allowed to travel,” according to the minister.
“We realise that the measures are tough, but free movement, the great benefit of the Schengen zone, is now a risk,” Tamašunienė said.
Rustamas Liubajevas, the head of Lithuania's State Border Guard Service, said any movement between Poland and Lithuania would only be possible through the Kalvarija checkpoint.
“Movement between Lithuania and Poland will only be possible via the Kalvarija border checkpoint,” he told journalists.
On Friday, Poland announced its decision to close its border for foreigners for ten days, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also done the same.
Lithuania has so far confirmed seven Covid-19 cases.
Read more: New coronavirus case confirmed in Klaipėda