Coronavirus updates: 2,000 Lithuanian citizens stranded, government mulls charter flights

Some 2,000 Lithuanian citizens have told the country’s embassies that they’re unable to return to Lithuania, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Monday, adding that the government may charter commercial flights to bring them home.

Around 1,000 of those unable to return are stranded in Spain, according to the ministry. The Lithuanian authorities are now considered chartering commercial flights to Spain, Germany and France to bring the citizens back to Lithuania.

Convoy of Baltic cars to move through Poland  Meanwhile, over 400 Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian cars have registered to cross Poland in an organised convoy on Monday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said. “Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian citizens who are currently on the German-Polish border will today move home in a Lithuanian-organised convoy,” the president posted on Facebook, adding that 430 cars have registered according to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.  Read more:  Wizz Air suspending all flights to and from Lithuania

Nausėda said on Monday he plans to discuss smooth return of Baltic citizens home with the Latvian and Estonian leaders.

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry registered those willing to cross Poland by car from Sunday night to 08:00 on Monday Warsaw time (09:00 Lithuanian time).

Poland closed its borders to foreigners on Sunday midnight to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Lithuania had asked Poland to create a temporary humanitarian corridor to allow Lithuanians to come back home.

Lithuania was placed under quarantine on Monday midnight and bans foreigners from entering. Foreign citizen travelling to other countries via Lithuania still have the right to cross the country’s territory in transit over the next three days until Wednesday.

Stranded Lithuanians to be flown home on an air force plane

Poland on Sunday night allowed a group of Lithuanians stranded on the German-Polish to cross the country. Meanwhile, a Lithuanian Air Force C-27J Spartan will bring another group home, representatives of the Lithuanian government said. “Thirty to 35 stranded Lithuanians will be flown home [from Berlin] on a Spartan tomorrow morning,” Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis posted on Facebook on Sunday.

Situation at the Lithuanian border: transiting cars allowed in, foreigners turned back   After Lithuania closed its borders to foreigners on Monday, one of the first vehicles stopped at Lithuania’s northern border with Latvia was a van with Ukrainian registration plates. Inside, people were returning home to Ukraine. As they were due to transit Lithuania and Belarus on their way back, the vehicle was allowed entry.

However, a Latvian taxi carrying Lithuanian citizens wasn’t allowed entry, as the driver is a Latvian citizen, Andrius Smolin told BNS.

Smolin and his colleagues work in Norway and were on their way back to Vilnius.

“We left out vehicles in Sweden as we tried to go via Denmark, Germany and Poland, but Denmark closed the border completely,” he said. “We then turned around, drove to Stockholm and then flew to Latvia.”

Smolin and the other men were forced to take their luggage and continue their trip to Vilnius by foot, and the taxi was forced to turn around and return to Latvia.

An Estonian citizen also had to end his trip to Lithuania at the Saločiai border post with Latvia.  Read more:  Lithuania calls nationwide quarantine: shutting non-essential shops and closing border to foreigners

“I am going to Šalcininkai to collect my workers as there are no buses. I will collect my people and we will return to Estonia,” Denis Komar told BNS.

However, the Estonian owner of a construction company was forced to turn around and leave some 30 minutes later.

Lithuania allows its citizens to come home but they must self-isolate for 14 days. Lorry drivers as well as foreign citizens who permanently reside in Lithuania, diplomats and NATO troops are also allowed to enter the country.

Lithuania became the fifth country to restore border control within Schengen.

Airports: six Lithuanians not allowed to fly out, Norwegian citizen refused entry

Six Lithuanian citizens were not allowed to fly out of Vilnius and Kaunas Airports from midnight to Monday morning, and one Norwegian citizen was not allowed to enter the country, according to the spokesman at the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), Giedrius Misutis. The Norwegian citizen flew back on the same plane, he said, adding that around a half of all planned flights from Lithuania have been cancelled.

Two foreigners had not been allowed to enter Lithuania as of 09:00 local time via Kalvarija, the only operating border crossing with Poland. And 15 people have not been allowed to leave Lithuania for Poland.

Lithuanian citizens are banned from leaving, except for those who work or live abroad or have been permitted to leave by the VSAT commander.

Queus on the Lithuanian-Polish border   A 13-kilometre queue of commercial vehicles waiting to enter Poland from Lithuania was reported on Monday morning. Queues were also forming at the Medininkai border checkpoint on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, Rustamas Liubajevas, chief of Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service (VSAT), told BNS.

There was a 24-kilometre queue at the Kalvarija border checkpoint on Sunday night, according to the police.

“Polish border guards and other institutions are carrying out very thorough checks of all drivers and cars, and this is also why the queue forms, we are trying to coordinate these issues,” Liubajevas said.

There were no queues on the Latvian border on Monday morning, he added.

Meanwhile, “queues are forming only from the Belarusian side towards Medininkai,” said Liubajevas.

Based on information from the Directorate of Border Crossing Infrastructure, a queue of 218 commercial vehicles willing to leave Lithuania was also reported at the Medininkai border crossing point on Monday morning.

 Total number of coronavirus cases in Lithuania rises to 14

Two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Lithuania on the night to Monday, brining the total number in the country to 14, the Health Ministry said. One of the people with Covid-19 has recently returned from Spain and the other one returned from Germany. They are both isolated and undergoing treatment at Santara Clinics in Vilnius.

“Fourteen Covid-19 cases have so far been confirmed in Lithuania. All of them are brought-in. The first patient has already recovered and been released home,” the ministry said.

The Lithuanian government put the country under quarantine on Monday. During this period, foreigners will not be allowed to enter the country, with certain exceptions, while Lithuanian nationals are not allowed to leave without a reason. Non-essential shops and all schools, kindergartens and universities will be closed.

Three coronavirus were confirmed on Sunday and three over the previous day. Lithuania’s first Covid-19 patient was diagnosed with the disease on February 28.

 Drive-in testing

Drive-in coronavirus testing sites will be opened in ten Lithuanian counties, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Sunday.

According to him, people will be able to drive up, have their testing done and then head home to wait for the results.

Veryga said that details as to where and to whom drive-in testing would be available would be announced later.

A negative test result does not mean that someone who has returned from a foreign country or has been in contact with an infected person will not be required to self-isolate, he added.


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