Ida-Viru County's Jõhvi and Kohtla-Järve regions continue to be the most affected by the recent surge in coronavirus cases and the Health Board (Terviseamet) considers stopping the virus from spreading in education institutions as the most important challenge over the coming weeks.
Estonia's new case rate per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days is 30.85 as of Monday, September 21. The same indicator for Ida-Viru County is over 90. Excluding Narva with its relatively high population and small infection rate, the indicator is well over 100.
While Kohtla-Järve and Jõhvi are struggling with the recent spread of COVID-19, the effects go wider. On Monday, the management of Sillamäe High School in Ida-Viru County decided to move its classes to distance learning until the end of the month after two students were diagnosed with the coronavirus over the weekend.
Director of Sillamäe High School Arno Kaseniit said: "A large number of students takes the bus and sitting next to each other on the bus is a large risk factor. By making the decision to go to distance learning, we have lessened the risk of someone catching the virus on a school bus."
Of the six municipality schools in Kohtla-Järve, four have moved to some sort of distance learning during September.
Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor Niina Aleksejeva said: "Experience shows that if a class moved to distance learning, the spread of coronavirus stops."
The Health Board has called on parents to ensure that their child remains in isolation and does not go out with friends if their class is directed to distance learning.
Head of the Health Board's eastern region Marje Muusikus said the toughest times are still to come.
Muusikus said: "Unfortunately fall is coming and if a runny nose is normal during regular fall, this year it should not be a common illness. The person must stay at home if they have an itchy throat and runny nose, regardless of whether they develop a cold or not."
Local government has no plans to establish further measures to alleviate the spread yet.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said: "We currently have to wait and see how effective established restrictions are. Municipality governments and the Health Board's Eastern Regional Department must act very actively on location to get the spread under control as fast as possible."
What is the situation in the eastern region?
Cases in Ida-Viru County first started rising after an outbreak in a bar in Jõhvi and Eesti Energia's Estonia mine in mid-August. The two outbreaks were connected as some workers from the mine had visited the bar. The coronavirus then spread to a second mine and now it is spreading in workplaces and schools. A late night alcohol sales ban has been in place for a month.
Ida-Viru's 14 day average is 98.38 per 100,000. Tallinn's is 32.77 per 100,000.
On Monday, the Health Board said there are four active outbreaks in Eastern Estonia: Kohtla-Järve workplace (six cases), Sillamäe workplace (11 cases), so-called acquaintance outbreak (29 cases), Tammiku basic school (11 cases).
The Eastern Regional Department is currently monitoring 690 people, of which 145 have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
There are estimated to be 134 active cases, for comparison, Harju County - which includes Tallinn - has 196 active cases.
In total, 437 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Ida-Viru County since the coronavirus pandemic started in February. This means the county has the third highest number of total cases in Estonia.
The second highest is Saare County which has 560 cases after a severe outbreak in March. It is now rare to get new cases in Saare County, whereas the number of new cases in Ida-Viru is growing every day, making it a possibility the county could end up with the second highest rate in Estonia in several weeks time.
To see more data about Ida-Viru and the rest of Estonia visit koroonakaart.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Helen Wright