Saaremaa Volleyball Club (VK) advanced to the next round of the CEV Challenge Cup after scheduled opponent Lausanne UC were forced to forfeit the series due to complications stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
The first match between Saaremaa and Lausanne was scheduled to take place on November 4 in Kuressaare, Estonia, and the return leg was set to take place in Switzerland on November 11.
Hannes Sepp, Saaremaa VK manager, said: "It is a shame our opponent decided to forfeit the Challenge Cup matches. At the same time, we understand their decision and hope their situation improves and we can still play European competition matches at the end of the season."
Saaremaa's opponent in the next round will be the victor of Ukrainian team Epitsentr Podoliani and Serbian Partizan, the round of 16 matches are currently scheduled to take place in December, but as the spread of COVID-19 continues, they are subject to change.
Saaremaa Volleyball Club and the coronavirus
Saaremaa Volleyball Club was thought to be the main catalyst of the first wave of COVID-19 in Estonia, leading to the island becoming the epicenter of COVID-19 in Estonia after the team decided to play two matches with a visiting Italian team in early March.
Saaremaa VK reached the quarterfinals of CEV Challenge Cup in the 2019/2020 season, where they faced Milano Powervolley. Due to the spread of the coronavirus in northern Italy, both matches went ahead on Saaremaa on March 5, a controversial decision which ended in the island becoming by far the hardest hit region of the country during the pandemic. Saaremaa VK's club president, and then-mayor of Kuressaare Madis Kallas were among those to contract COVID-19.
By March 27, cases diagnosed in Saaremaa (218) overtook the far more populous Harju County (208).
On April 1, The Estonia Defence Forces started constructing a field hospital in the grounds of Kuressaare Hospital, anticipating further cases, though in the event this was not used.
April 20 was the first date Saaremaa saw no new cases reported overnight, though mayor Kallas also resigned on the same day, taking political responsibility for the crisis that had engulfed the island.
Travel restrictions between the island and the mainland, stricter than those for the rest of the country and which meant only island residents could travel to Saaremaa, as well as neighboring Hiiumaa and other islands, were relaxed on May 8, ahead of the full end of the emergency situation on May 17.
Since May, there have only been 30 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Saare County.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste