Fischer: Scientific council would have sent more children back to school

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Krista Fischer talking to ERR. Source: ERR

While the government largely took the scientific council's recommendations into account when deciding to ease restrictions from April 26, the council would have sent more children back to school instead of opening the economy.

"The scientific council wished for the priority to be allowing older children to school as well and other openings could have waited another week," said Krista Fischer, the government's scientific council mathematical statistician.

Fischer told ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" on Thursday: "We wished for the openings to be gradual and that the most important things to be opened before all, we think education and training outdoors are the most important."

Fischer said if too many restrictions are eased, infection rates can suddenly surge, which could lead to new restrictions. "That could lead to us easing things and then having to tell basic school students that they must wait until fall," Fischer said.

She said the scientific council believes that Estonia should be careful with easing restrictions as the daily infection numbers are still high. "We would like to see less than 500 or even less than 300 daily cases regularly but we have not seen that yet," the University of Tartu professor said.

Therefore, Estonia does not have much room for error with easing restrictions, Fischer said.

"If we decide to ease something that increases contacts by 10 percent, let's say, then our infection rate (also known as the R rate) increases by 10 percent as well. If we do another one, then 1.1 times 1.1 equals 1.21 - therefore the infection rate increases more than 20 percent. And if there are too many decisions made at once, we will take our infection rate over 1 and the downward trend turns upward again," she explained.

"Luckily the government has prioritized activities in fresh air and not opening restaurants, but rather outdoor terraces and also imposed restrictions on opening commerce," she added.

"I hope this does not lead to a huge increase in infections and people recognize that easing restrictions does not mean that the danger is gone, but rather that we must react to easing restrictions very carefully and that there is still a very real chance of infection," the mathematical statistician said.

"In the grand scheme, the government still took the scientific council's recommendations to account, as our wish was that children could go back to school since it is very important to many families, which was confirmed to us by people in education and health. Secondly, the council recommended allowing outdoor trainings, since that does not bring much risk of infection, but it is very important for many people, also children," Fischer said.

Restriction easing timetable

On Tuesday, the government decided to ease restrictions on shops, eateries and schools, starting from May 3. Outdoor group trainings are allowed from next week.

Last week, 3,341 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed across Estonia falling from 4,663 the previous week. There were 63 deaths. For more data, read ERR News' coverage here.

From April 26:

  • Group training for up to 10 people, including an instructor, can take place outside.

From May 3:

  • Classes 1-4 and children with special needs can return to school.
  • Bar and restaurant outdoor terraces can open until 9 p.m. with up to 10 people at a table. Indoor service is still restricted but food can be sold for take-away.
  • Shops can reopen with a 25 percent occupancy limit. Masks must be worn and the 2+2 rule followed.
  • Training can take place indoors but the 2+2 rule must be followed. Group trainings cannot take place.
  • Museums can be open until 7 p.m. with a 25 percent occupancy limit.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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