Health board, scientific council oppose Rally Estonia quarantine exemption

Hyundai teammates Thierry Neuville (left) and Ott Tänak (right).
Hyundai teammates Thierry Neuville (left) and Ott Tänak (right). Source: Hyundai Motorsport

Both the Health Board (Terviseamet) and the government's scientific committee set up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic oppose giving an exemption on event restrictions to September's Rally Estonia, daily Õhtuleht reports.

The rally, Estonia's first ever WRC stage and the first event in the series since it halted during the spread of COVID-19 in spring, is due to take place September 4-6 across various locations in South Estonia.

Since many of the rally drivers, co-drivers and team members due to take part will be traveling from countries with coronavirus rates beyond the threshold required for self-quarantining, they will be in theory required to do just that, as things stand.

"Right now the scientific council is opposed to making any exceptions," head of the council and professor of virology Irja Lutsar told Õhtuleht (link in Estonian).

"When differences come, it's going to be clear. It is clear now: the foreign ministry's website has a list of countries whose travelers have to self-isolate [on arrival in Estonia] and those who don't. This is updated every Friday, and the rules apply equally to everyone. If an exemption is made for one, the second, third and fourth want it, making it difficult to draw the line."

The current threshold established by the foreign ministry is 16 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the country of origin over the preceding two weeks. Arrivals from countries with a higher rate than that have to self-quarantine for 14 days, during which they can only leave their place of stay to buy food and other essentials, or for medial or emergency reasons.

Drivers and co-drivers due from France, Spain, Belgium

However, the home countries of two leading drivers, Thierry Neuville (Belgium) and series leader Sebastien Ogier (France) are currently both above the threshold (35 and 19 per 100,000 respectively).

The pair's teams, Hyundai (Neuville) and Toyota (Ogier) are however based in Germany and Finland respectively. Both countries currently have rates below the threshold and arrivals in Estonia do not need to quarantine.

Among other leading drivers, two, veteran racer Sebastien Loeb and Spanish driver Danni Sordo would need to self-quarantine if they arrived in Estonia today, and the same would apply to co-drivers Julien Ingrassia (France) and  Carlos del Barrio (Spain).

All the remaining drivers and co-drivers are from Finland, the U.K., the Republic of Ireland and Poland, all below the threshold at the time of writing.

The third team competing this season, following Citroen's withdrawal last year, M-Sport Ford, is based in the U.K.

Italy, once leading the coronavirus infections league table globally, hosted the non-championship Rally di Alba at the weekend, in which Ott Tänak and other WRC stars competed. Since Italy is now below the threshold issued by the foreign ministry, Estonians are able to return from there with no quarantine requirement.

Rally Estonia's organizers say they have planned isolated movement channels for competitors coming from affected countries, with spectators expected only from neighboring countries – primarily Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, again all below the threshold at present, though organizers admit it is harder to impose quarantining requirements on those coming via, but not originally from, those states.

Coronavirus resting is required both before departure and after arrival, organizer Urmo Aava told ERR last week, with a negative test being prerequisite to competing.

Tickets are allocated to 16,000 spectators, grouped into several batches.

"Those coming from countries at risk still have a duty to self-isolate," Simmo Saar, Health Board head of communications said, adding that they can be required to do so if it is known they came from an above-threshold country.

The 16 per 100,000 ceiling is distinct from a requirement set by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications regarding direct flight links. That figure is 25 per 100,000; direct flights from countries with a reported rate above that will be canceled, which happened Friday for Wizzair flights to and from Ukraine.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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