Lutsar on closing schools: It is not the best idea

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Irja Lutsar. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Both the government's coronavirus scientific council (Teadusnõukoda) and the Health Board (Terviseamet) are working to allow children to go back to school after the Christmas break because there is no proof showing closing schools is beneficial, head of the scientific council Irja Lutsar said on ETV current affairs show "Esimene stuudio".

Lutsar said the aim of closing the schools was to decrease contacts between people, but schools should be reopened as soon as possible.

"The scientific council and the Health Board are working to open schools. The unfortunate part is that the knowledge of closing schools originates from the U.S. in the 1940s. It is old knowledge but it worked with the flu," Lutsar said on Tuesday.

Lutsar said closing schools even in areas where coronavirus is not a problem, is not the best idea.

"But the decision has been made. Now we should see how would it be possible to open the schools. Time should not be wasted on whether it was a good or bad decision, but rather on how can the schools be opened; what are the measures, which should be used. I did not recommend closing schools but let's be honest, I agreed with it," Lutsar said.

Now is not the time to close the state

While several European states, including Lithuania, have established strict movement restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, Estonia has not done so. Lutsar said the situation in Estonia is not so bad that lockdown should be considered yet, but the scenario is not excluded.

"Now is not the time for it. Yes, the number of infected people and patients is increasing but we cannot only look at the number. 500 people per 100,000 people might seem scary, but we have to look at what's behind the number. First I see it has increased - if it's very fast. Yes, every week there have been more cases than a week earlier. Another thing - occupancy of hospitals. Around 350 to 400 people in all hospitals would be manageable, but onward...I can not say we won't establish stricter rules," Lutsar said.

Lutsar highlighted that in countries where strict restrictions have been established, the situation is not better.

Vaccination is the safest way to herd immunity

Lutsar said that in her opinion, the best way to exit the pandemic is the vaccine.

"I don't see a quick way out without the vaccine. Herd immunity would be possible, but it would take years. And this journey will definitely have victims. I see the advantages of the vaccine topping the disadvantages," Lutsar said.

For herd immunity, 70 to 75 percent of the people should be vaccinated, Lutsar said. "20 percent are children who we don't have to count," Lutsar said.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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