A Europa League meeting between Estonian football club Nõmme Kalju and Slovenian side NŠ Mura, scheduled to take place at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday, was canceled due to coronavirus risks, even though the Estonian Football Association (EJL) applied to the government for an extraordinary permission.
Nõmme Kalju and the EJL held a press conference on Thursday, confirming that the Health Board (Terviseamet) recommended on Wednesday that the match be canceled because of players on both teams giving positive coronavirus tests.
This morning, the EJL turned to the Ministry of Culture to apply for an exemption for the match, also implemented for Rally Estonia and the Tallinn Ironman triathlon, but they did not receive a positive response, therefore cancelling the match.
Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) told ERR's radio news: "Having received the Health Board's stance, the government approved it. The Health Board has not allowed players, who were in close contact with someone infected, to run out on the pitch. All remaining players can play, if there are such players on the team. The government can not make some special exemption because it does not actually affect the event itself."
The Health Board based its decision on the fact that a player for Kalju gave a positive COVID-19 test on August 23, having played in a domestic league match the day before. A repeat test on August 25 also confirmed his infection. A player for NŠ Mura also gave a positive test for COVID-19 on August 24, having played in a match in the Slovenian domestic league on August 22.
The Health board assessed that all players involved in the matches were in close contact to the infected players.
UEFA guidelines, under which the match was supposed to be played, see strict measures to be put into place in case of coronavirus risks. Among other things, teams and all traveling persons must take charter flights to destination countries, stay overnight at hotels where distancing is ensured and have no contact with anyone outside the team etc.
All teams and related persons are also tested at least 48 hours prior to the match to rule out any infected people travel to a destination country and participating in the specific event. All matches are held without spectators present, arenas are also separated into sections, ruling out any contact between media, players and matchday staff.
The EJL has made a proposal to the Health Board to conduct supplementary tests on both teams' players on August 27. They have also proposed placing all Kalju players in a 14-day quarantine immediately after match end.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste