Health Board classifies team sports as high-risk activities

A match in the Estonian Women's Champions League.
A match in the Estonian Women's Champions League. Source: Jana Pipar/

The Health Board has changed a previous regulation that did not classify team sports such as basketball and football as high-risk sports and ball players must train carefully going forward, as the police can run spot checks on training groups.

When gyms and sports halls were again opened in Tallinn and Harju County in early-February, hobby athletes were baffled as according to a Health Board regulation, it seemed as if yoga and pilates were more high-risk for COVID-19 than basketball and football.

"Activities with more intensive breathing where people are in smaller groups for an extended period of time, running and exhaling, inevitably hold higher risk of infection, distance cannot be held for those activities," said Health Board deputy director general Mari-Anne Härma.

Still, Härma would not call releasing team sports from the earlier restriction an accident. "It was not an accident at first, it was discussed earlier, but the issue was categorizing it. It (team sports - ed) was initially placed in low-risk, because it had a definition of it being low-risk when requirements were followed," Härma said.

The renewed Health Board regulation did not come as a surprise to sports associations, because it became clear last week that ball games would be handled as high-risk activities.

Estonian Football Association spokesperson Mihkel Uiboleht said: "When the team sports were all gathered up last week, each sport came with concrete trust measures that had to be followed. Considering the coronavirus situation, considering all the restrictions for other areas of life, we assess these as very reasonable."

For example, a pause must be left between training groups in order to air out rooms, people coming and going from trainings cannot be in contact with each other and dressing rooms can only be filled at 25 percent capacity. If it is not possible to follow these conditions in smaller gyms and halls, Uiboleht recommends people change into their workout clothes and take a shower at home.

Mari-Anne Härma said: "The Health Board, in cooperation with the police, can do occasional spot checks. We will certainly not check everyone, but will go on a complaint basis and people are very eager to let us know, the Health Board will deal with it then."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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