Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) told ERR the decision to move some classes to distancing learning on Wednesday was made to prevent the introduction of new restrictions. He said the city is following the advice given by the Health Board.
Speaking on ERR's online broadcast "Oste uudistemajast" the mayor emphasized that he takes responsibility for the decision of the city government concerning schools.
"We do not have an emergency at school," he stressed, explaining the new arrangement is necessary to prepare for a time when there may be an emergency situation again. "We did not impose any general restrictions. Quarantine is a restriction, it is imposed by the health authority."
Kõlvart explained the decision was made by the Tallinn Crisis Committee. However, in his opinion, the city is just following the guidelines issued by the Health Board.
"If we look at the instructions from the Health Board, then it is written down how to behave, if there are a lot of people in the premises, it is not possible to avoid contact between people," Kõlvart said on Thursday and listed the instructions: keep your distance, disperse people, use masks.
He said: "Our statistics today show that most of our teachers are at risk. It is schools that have the highest concentration of people."
According to Kõlvart, the choice is very simple: either the city starts to anticipate the situation in the schools or waits for when the infection strikes them and the schools have to be closed one by one.
Discussing that discission of a school to start distance learning from primary school onwards, the mayor said this was the wrong decision to make and school should not do this.
"Primary school children can end up in homeschooling for only one reason: quarantine, which is also approved by the health authority. It is absolutely out of the question," he said. "The goal was not distance learning per se, but the dispersal of students."
He emphasized that everything must be done to keep kindergartens and primary schools open.
The move was criticized on Wednesday by the head of the government's advisor council Professor Irja Lutsar and parents have also been unsupportive of the policy.
The city cannot regulate nightlife
Yesterday, when the move to distance learning for eighth-grade pupils and above was announced, it was discussed at the same time as the council advocating people visit bars and cafes, causing people to question how Tallinn could say schools were too dangerous to go to but that cafes were safe.
He said it is not fair to compare bars and schools in the same way. "It is also not correct to compare events that take place outdoors with what happens in schools," Kõlvart said.
Kõlvart agreed that the announcements made at the city's press conference about may not have sounded good, but they did not think about it earlier.
"Of course, when we talk about messages, maybe at the same press conference we should not have given two messages, but I have to admit that we have never thought about how they sound together," Kõlvart commented. "The city is one whole, all areas are one whole. We have to deal with both business and education in parallel. Tourism is a big economic sector for us."
The mayor said Tallinn cannot regulate the activities of bars, nightclubs and other entertainment establishments because these decisions are made by the government.
"If it is a private club, a private party, the city of Tallinn cannot impose preventive measures or restrictions. The city cannot close nightclubs, it can only be done by the state," the mayor emphasized, adding that even large events can only be restricted by the state.
Editor: Helen Wright