Lithuania's resort towns, like Nida, are becoming popular destinations for people seeking to self-isolate from the pandemic. The locals are not thrilled, fearing they might bring the coronavirus.
It is low season in Nida, Lithuania's quiet coastal resort town on the Curonian Spit, but it is much more lively than usual for this time of the year.
As the country has called a nationwide quarantine, people from the big cities are coming to self-isolate in Nida, raising concerns among the locals.
Albertas is walking his dog along the pier. He lives in Kaunas, but came to Nida for a week, since his family owns a flat here. He says there are noticeably more people than is usual for March.
“Much more. But they mostly stay indoors, do not walk in big groups,” he says.
Kristupas and his family came to Nida from Vilnius. “We chose [to come] for self-isolation, because [...] we thought it would be better here than in the capital city,” he says.
The town is quite isolated: it lies across the Curonian Lagoon from the mainland and the only link is a ferry to Klaipėda some 50 kilometres away.
In midday, the town's main streets look quite empty, but more people can be seen walking along the sea, the Curonian Lagoon or in the woods nearby. Few of them are wearing masks.
The locals, who would otherwise be happy with extra business, fear that the visitors may bring the coronavirus.
Darius Jasaitis, the mayor, says that the town's council even considered raising fees for entering the town to discourage visitors.
While there are so far no restrictions on travel within the country, Jasaitis warns that Nida is not ready to accommodate many visitors. Groceries have to be brought from the mainland by ferry and there are only two medical emergency teams on duty.
“If something happens while playing, you may have to wait a day for the ambulance to come,” Jasaitis says. “If you're coming [to Nida] today, it's not quite like Alaska, but it's pretty close.”
Like in the rest of the country, hotels and cafes in Nida are closed due to the coronavirus quarantine. If the restrictions continue into the summer, it would be a disaster for the town's economy, Jasaitis says.
On the other hand, if the quarantine is lifted before the summer season, Lithuanians may be inclined to spend vacation inside the country, according to Jasaitis.