Scientific council recommends schools fully reopen as soon as possible

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Students at school. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The government's scientific advisory council reiterated that schools should be fully reopened as soon as possible so all children can return to contact learning.

The council made its proposals to the government on Monday and head of the council virology professor Irja Lutsar told ERR the recommendations remained more or less the same as last week.

For the last few weeks, the council has recommended that the reopening of schools should be prioritized over the reopening of the economy.

Lutsar also emphasized that as the summer holidays are coming up, children should return to contact learning before then. She said a specific date, such as May 10 or May 17, had not been suggested.

"We did not propose a date, but we said it could be done as soon as possible with the 50 percent occupancy rate that the Ministry of Education already has in mind," she said.

Schools must still follow the guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus such as good ventilation, wearing masks and vaccinating teachers, she said.

Lutsar highlighted that the number of new cases is not falling as quickly as it has done in previous months. There was a 9 percent drop last week, but previously it has been as high as 20 percent. The R number is currently 0.9 but letting it go above 1 would see the infection rate start to grow again.

Yesterday (May 3), grades 1-4, 9 and 12 were allowed to return to school for the first time since mid-March. Restrictions were also eased on restaurants, shops and shopping centers.

The council previously recommended lifting restrictions step-by-step, schools first and the economy later, so each stage could be monitored to understand how it raises the infection rate. However, the government made the decision to do both at the same time.

The below graph is taken from ERR News' weekly round-up and shows the number of new cases diagnosed by week. Last week 2,402 new cases were reported compared to 2,604 the previous week.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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