State of South Estonian Rally still in limbo after discussions on Wednesday

Ott Tänak and his Hyundai i20 Coupe.
Ott Tänak and his Hyundai i20 Coupe. Source: Hyundai Motorsport/Jaanus Ree

After discussions on Wednesday between the Health Board (Terviseamet) and organizers of the South Estonian Rally, set to take place on August 22-23, acting director of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma said the board does not have plans to cancel the rally event, but no concrete decision or agreement was reached either.

The discussions on Wednesday did not clear up the question of whether or not the race can take place with spectators present, or if the entire event would be canceled.

On Wednesday, the city of Võru, along with organizers of the rally, decided to cancel the city stage of the South Estonian Rally due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Estonia.

Anti Allas, Mayor of Võru, told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Wednesday: "We have reached an agreement with the Health Board and the organizers that [hosting the city stage] is rather difficult to do now without the risk of infection rising considerably."

Gabriel Müürsepp, main organizer of the rally told portal Delfi (link in Estonian) on Tuesday evening: "The Health Board (Terviseamet) is worried about spectator distancing and that is hard to ensure on the city stage. Separating areas with ribbons is just not considered enough."

Müürsepp added that organizers will continue planning the event, mostly with roads in forests, but there are doubts cast on the entire event.

Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) thinks the South Estonian Rally, not to be confused with WRC Rally Estonia (September 4-6), should still take place because organizers have taken into account increased risk and have decreased spectator capacity.

Lukas justified this by saying: "The rally could also see WRC top class machines and teams, who would come to Estonia to test out the roads ten days before the WRC event. The South Estonian Rally could become an international event if conditions are followed."

The Health Board recommends the event be held without spectators present.

Acting director of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma said: "If we are expecting thousands upon thousands of people to come to South Estonia, then it is reasonable to pull back on those events a bit, looking forward to the fall so we would not have any more outbreaks."

Härma said if risk of infection is not considered and alleviated, the Health Board's stance on the event would be "not likely".

The acting director of the Health Board however noted that: "It's likely if risk is alleviated. The rally can then take place."

She also noted that risk assessment is being conducted for WRC Rally Estonia, to find solutions for the event to be able to take place.

Lukas said technical capabilities have to be developed so competitors from countries where infection rates are high can also take part in the event without endangering others.

Lukas added: "If they are tested before coming to Estonia, then tested here immediately and directed to their accomodation while being clearly separated from the environment so it would be safe for them and the environment itself, movement restrictions could be taken off and they would not be quarantined for two weeks."

The cooperation between rally organizers and the Health Board has given the board faith that the event can be held even with the recent outbreaks in Estonia. Härma said the outbreaks are localized, and that gives reason to believe they can be under control before the WRC event on the first weekend of September.

WRC Rally Estonia's safety will be discussed by the government on Thursday.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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