A central Tallinn school has made face-mask wearing a requirement for all students and teachers, starting Wednesday.
The school, the Old Town Educational College (VHK), sent a letter to parents recently, informing them of the move and pointing out one teacher had contracted COVID-19 recently, with several students and teachers having been in close contact with others with the virus, particularly following the half-term break in late October.
"The break gave opportunities for moving about a bit more, and we do not know yet whether this has led to more serious consequences or if there has been a slight increase in contacts today," the letter, addressed to parents of all children from first grade upwards, read, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
The school says that it would rather make masks a requirement instead of switching to distance learning.
In practical terms, the school said that its nurse will give instruction on the correct wearing of masks and, talking to ERR, noted that the regulation might not work out in particular with younger children, children with special education needs, and also older teachers who may experience breathing difficulties.
"At the moment we should try things out for the first few days, then we can look ahead," school director Kersti Nigesen told ERR.
Nigesen also conceded getting a clear picture of close contacts would be difficult.
The school made its decision on masks without consulting the Health Board (Terviseamet), Nigesen said, noting that they did so for lack of any better alternative.
"We wanted to carry this out ourselves, and set up an organizational capacity to deal with the virus. No one else is going to protect us from us," Nigesen said.
"If there end up being no teachers [due to the virus], there is nothingwe will be able to do at school," she went on.
"Any action will help alleviate the situation."
Nigesen also said that the use of blue light will help, since these kill bacteria (COVID-19 is a virus, not bacteria – ed.).
VHK's sister school, St. Michael's School (PMK) will have the same requirement since the two schools share teachers.
While mask-checks will not be conducted at the school gates, this will be done in class, Nigesen said, adding children can bring their own home-made masks or, if they do not have one, the school will provide a mask.
A recent case where a school unilaterally imposed a quarantine requirement on a student who had returned from a country not on the quarantine list at the time has attracted criticism from justice chancellor Ülle Madise, who says the Health Board is the competent authority on such matters.
Editor: Andrew Whyte