Coronavirus scientific council supports reopening schools on September 1

Irja Lutsar.
Irja Lutsar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Professor Irja Lutsar, head of the government's coronavirus scientific council (Teadusnõukoda), has announced the body is in support of opening schools and kindergartens for the 2020-2021 academic year, on the traditional date of September 1. Schools had conducted lessons remotely from March to the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Professor Lutsar noted: "The current experience with the coronavirus in the first seven months has demonstrated that while children can and do get infected with SARS-CoV-2, they get through it either with very light symptoms or none at all. Household surveys have shown that children can pick up the virus from adults, but not the other way around."

The scientific council is also in support of children's hobby and interest groups continuing, with Professor Lutsar highlighting sports above all else.

Professor Lutsar wrote on her social media account that: "The council states that each school should work out a plan on how to bring infection risk to the minimum; hygiene regulations and alleviating infection should remain in curricula even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Since leaving small children home alone is considered unsafe, closing primary schools and kindergartens would bring a significant part of the workforce not joining the labor market."

The council does recommend people avoid using public transport where possible, however.

Another recommendation by the council is to distinguish self-isolation necessitated by contact or potential contact with individuals previously infected with COVID-19, and self-isolation necessitated by arriving in Estonia from high-risk countries.

Lutsar said: "In the first case, when risk of infection is higher, a 14-day self-isolation period is necessary with testing if symptoms come up. In the second case (arriving from high-risk countries - ed.), PCR testing can be used as an alternative when arriving in the country. If the initial test proves negative, a repeat test can be taken within 7-10 days."

Self-isolation is still required until the results of the initial test are available, even if this is simply a matter of hours. In the case of a negative initial PCR test, self-isolation is replaced by strict restrictions allowing for movement between essential work and home, alongside the requirement for taking a repeat test.

A second negative result means no quarantining requirements apply to the individual.

The council, set up in the wake of the pandemic arriving in Estonia in March, has generally taken a more laissez-faire stance on the coronavirus in recent weeks in comparison with the state Health Board (Terviseamet), questioning the effectiveness of facemasks in curbing the viral spread and the likelihood that recent outbreaks in Tartu and Ida-Viru County constituted a second wave of the virus.

Professor Irja Lutsar is a virologist at the University of Tartu.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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