Culture minister wants quarantine exemption for Rally Estonia participants
Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) has asked the government for a quarantine exemption for competitors and manufacturers at WRC Rally Estonia, to enable participants from high-risk countries to be allowed entry to Estonia without the required 14-day isolation period.
Exemptions would be applied to drivers and team members traveling from countries where the COVID-19 infection rate is higher than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants, which currently includes the home country of current drivers' championship leader Sebastien Ogier (France).
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 medical or emergency reasons.
Lukas said the amount of such countries in Europe is completely remarkable and some drivers should be allowed to travel quarantine-free. The conditions would include a test 72 hours prior to boarding the plane to Estonia. On arrival, another test is taken and if both tests are negative, the quarantine period could be skipped.
Lukas told ERR: "Further movement restrictions would not be implemented, they are already in strict isolation and only dealing with their sport and will not bein contact with the wider public."
Lukas said these conditions do not affect the South Estonian Rally, held on August 22-23, but drivers who will participate in WRC Rally Estonia on September 4-6 are more than welcome to join the exhibition rally.
Answering a question on whether drivers' country of origin and dispatch will be checked on arrival, Lukas said this specific measure is related to where a person is traveling from, and not their citizenship.
The culture minister said a special committee will help organizers of Rally Estonia with any arising conditions and therefore, the conditions under which drivers are acommodated are under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. In addition to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), Lukas said the help of the Defense League (Kaitseliit) will also be used to keep spectator capacity in check.
Lukas added that participants are placed in hotels and other accomodation establishments in a way that they would not congregate into large groups.
He thinks this is important for two reasons: Firstly, so that the virus would not be brought in and secondly, it must be ensured that drivers would not be infected here. "We are very vigilant and serious about the situation."
Compromises with the scientific council and Health Board will be reached through discussions. Lukas said that the subject is being discussed and they are organizationally able to take steps in order for the rally to take place.
The culture minister said a WRC event is valuable to Estonia because it introduces the country to the world, but the option to remove spectators and cancel events will be taken into account.
Lukas explained: "Those steps can be taken so considering the scientists' scepticism, the event can still take place. But we're still discussing it."
Tiia Luht, head of the Health Board's South Estonia district, told daily Postimees (link in Estonian): "According to the Health Board's assessment, the city stage of the South Estonian Rally in Võru can not be hosted safely."
She added that intense meetings were held all day Monday with major public events being the crux of discussion and possible replacements to the city stage in Võru are being discussed on Tuesday.
Luht also noted that local governments are authorized to give out permissions to host events currently.
Võru mayor Anti Allas commented: "We are living in a situation where tomorrow's situation might not be the same as today's but I don't like when people just say - no, you can't. For me, it is not a question of if we can but rather how we could."
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste