Statistical data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic period is not only a tough challenge but also opens new ways and possibilities for the Baltic States’ authorities

In May, we witnessed an annual meeting of the heads of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian statistics authorities. This time, due to the imposed quarantine, it was arranged and held on-line.

All three countries, as the other European states, face serious difficulties in population interviewing, and for this reason they are trying in legal ways to obtain an authorisation to use their residents’ mobile telephone numbers. Assurance of business statistics quality is also of particular concern in this regard.

Special agreements with large-scale retailers and supermarkets on price registration have been made: prices are provided on-line, furthermore, the share of prices sent in computer readable form on the Internet is increasing. Besides the current projects, Statistics Lithuania has adopted strong leadership to introduce voluntary survey on the Internet, focused on the main entrance routes of the COVID-19 virus. Filling in of the said questionnaire has not begun yet as coronavirus cases are declining though the results of this excellent work could be a useful tool for addressing possible crises in the future.

Estonian population may be interviewed over Skype. Furthermore, data submitted under agreements by mobile operators are used for monitoring the residents’ movement, which enables to see, by days of the week, the proportion of population spending a significant part of the time at their main location, as well as to register gatherings of people in the parks and on cognitive paths. Estonia places a greater emphasis on experimental statistics, i.e. not official statistics, which at this stage might be of particular use for society, for example, changes in the labour market.

In Latvia, prior to imposing the quarantine regime, agreements on the exchange of data have been made with the State Revenue Service, which enables to access the Business Registry and use administrative business data. Prices are registered in the usual way, visiting shops and department stores.

COVID-19 has shown the need to discuss means of the wider use of administrative data sources. Proposal to organise joint meetings of the heads of statistical offices of the Baltic states and Nordic countries is an issue for further discussions as the latter have large administrative sources and could share their experience.

In the meeting of the heads of statistical offices of the Baltic states, scheduled in October, data stewardship, communication changes during crisis period, census issues, COVID statistics, new technologies in social statistics are priority topics put forward for discussion.