Birgitta Festival canceled over Russian participants' coronavirus status

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Pirita Convent. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The annual Birgitta Festival, an opera and ballet outdoor event held amid the ruins of the Pirita Convent in Tallinn, has been canceled for the second year running, and again for concerns related to the coronavirus – though this time in connection with a specific group of participants coming from Russia, rather than overall COVID-19 rates in Estonia.

Tallinn City Government had sought an exemption for the participants coming from Russia – from the State Opera and Ballet Theater in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk – to allow them to enter quarantine-free, but the national government rejected the request.

Festival goers will be refunded the cost of their tickets if they had bought them.

Margit Tohver-Aints, director of the Tallinn Philharmonic Society, which was organizing the festival said: "We made this decision this morning with a heavy heart, and hope that both our audience and partners will understand it."

"The government's decision means that all artists arriving from Russia would have needed to self-quarantine for a week at a hotel after undergoing coronavirus testing before they would have been able to start attending rehearsals. Time-wise, this made the conduct of the festival impossible," she went on.

As reported on ERR News, the contingent coming from Krasnoyarsk would have had to follow the same coronavirus entry restrictions for third-country (broadly speaking, non-EU/EEA states) nationals entering Estonia and quarantined for 10 days. This period can be shortened to six if two tests are taken on day one and day six (or thereafter) and return negative.

Additionally, since Wednesday, arrivals from third countries have to pass negative even before departure, on a test taken in their country of origin.

The development comes days after Russian authorities expelled one of three Estonian consuls based in St. Petersburg, while Estonia has opted to respond in kind and will send away one diplomat also.

The bulk of the Krasnoyarsk would-be festival participants had not been vaccinated against the virus, BNS reports.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vadim Belobrovtsev (Center) said that the situation now left the organizers no alternative but to cancel.

He said: "The festival was due to start in four weeks, but the conditions set by the government for the performers set to arrive from Russia have made the holding of the festival virtually impossible."

"Unfortunately, the Birgitta Festival is to be canceled for the second consecutive year; however, we're not giving up and will start preparing next year's program instead."

The city government and its culture and sports department are co-organizers of the event, together with the Tallinn Philharmonic Society.

As an outdoor event, the festival would have been permitted to accommodate up to a thousand participants under current, national coronavirus restrictions.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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