Athletes arriving in Estonia from so-called third countries will no longer have to quarantine for 14 days, provided they return negative from a coronavirus test.
The government made the announcement Tuesday, with culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), under whose remit sporting activities fall, telling ERR that this would include an exemption for sports teams taking part in international competition with Estonia
"While, according to the previous regulations, teams from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine or Armenia, for example, had to self-isolate for weeks after arrival before the could start competing, now they can compete immediately after testing negative for COVID-19," Lukas said.
The move follows an appeal by the Estonian Football Association (EJL), as well as basketball team Kalev/Cramo, for such an exemption ahead of UEFA European Championships games the national football team is scheduled to play, and other international games.
EJL head Aivar Põhlak said that the alternative, having to play games in alternative, neutral venues would cost the association €200,000 in travel fees, stadium rental, accommodation and other costs.
A similar exemption had already been temporarily put in place for the WRC Rally Estonia in early September.
Sportspeople will be tested for COVID-19 both in their country of origin, shortly before departure, and upon arrival in Estonia, and need to return negative both times.
The move means the senior national football team's European Championship qualifiers against North Macedonia on October 11, and against Armenia two days later, both at the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, will now go ahead, as will and under-21s clash with Serbia in Pärnu on October 13, and a national women's team fixture against Turkey on November 27 in Tallinn.
Spectator numbers are capped at 2,000 under the current rules. The A. Le Coq Arena's capacity is a little over 14,000.
A coronavirus outbreak affected several team members of domestic league club Nõmme Kalju in early September.
The announcement comes at the same time as a lifting of direct flight restrictions to and from Estonia for, at present, most European countries. Previously the rate beyond which direct flights were off the table was 25 per 100,000 inhabitants over the preceding 14 days, which more recently meant direct flights were canceled between Estonia and most European destinations, including in countries with a lower reported rate than Estonia's (currently just under 45 per 100,000).
Now flights are allowed between Estonia and any country whose reported rate is no higher than twice the European average (currently just under 100 per 100,000). This means only direct flights, such as there are, between Estonia and Andorra, the Czech Republic, France and Spain are barred, from the list of European states.
Editor: Andrew Whyte