Saaremaa volleyball club at heart of COVID-19 outbreak playing next season

Saaremaa Volleyball Club.
Saaremaa Volleyball Club. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Saaremaa Volleyball Club, thought to be a main catalyst in the island of Saaremaa becoming the epicenter of COVID-19 in Estonia after playing two matches with a visiting Italian team in early March, has announced that it will continue operations for its fourth season.

The team, Saaremaa VK, announced in a press release: "The last season has been difficult for world sports and certainly for us. At one point, us continuing was in question and none of us know what the next season will bring. But every fall is followed by a rise.

"The period has been difficult for everyone and has also affected the president of the club, Toivo Alt. Toivo Alt will step away from the club at this time, which does not mean that he will not be connected to the club for the coming period. He will be replaced by his relative, Ivar Alt, and what is most important, he has ensured enough budgetary resources for the club to continue toward its goals."

Saaremaa VK also says that the coaches and roster for the team isare still to be announced, with more information coming in the following weeks.

Saaremaa VK reached the quarterfinals of CEV Challenge Cup in the 2019/2020 season, where they faced Milano Powervolley. Due to the spread of the coronavirus in northern Italy, both matches went ahead on Saaremaa on March 5, a controversial decision which ended in the island becoming by far the hardest hit region of the country during the pandemic. Saaremaa VK's club president, and then-mayor Madis Kallas were among those to contract COVID-19.

By March 27, cases diagnosed in Saaremaa (218) overtook Harju County (208).

On April 1, The Estonia Defence Forces started constructing a field hospital in the grounds of Kuressaare Hospital, anticipating further cases, though in the event this was not used.

April 20 was the first date Saaremaa saw no new cases reported overnight, though mayor Kallas also resigned on the same day, taking political responsibility for the crisis that had engulfed the island. Travel restrictions between the island and the mainland, stricter than those for the rest of the country and which meant only island residents could travel to Saaremaa, as well as neighboring Hiiumaa and other islands, were relaxed on May 8, ahead of the end of the emergency situation on May 17.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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