Government postpones decision to send all children back to school

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An empty classroom. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

The government failed to agree on when all children will return to school at its sitting on Tuesday. The issue will be discussed again next week.

"I very much hope that we can allow children to go to school on May 17," Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) told ERR. 

He said the government wants to know what effects the May 3 restrictions have had before the decision is made.  

Kiik did not agree with the statement that Estonia is moving in a different direction to other countries by opening businesses instead of schools and said that most restrictions have been eased in the education sector.

"In Estonia, on average, more schools have been opened than in European countries. If we look at catering establishments, only outdoor terraces are allowed to open while smaller relaxations have been made in hobby education, but cinemas are completely closed," he said.

Kiik emphasized the infection rate R has risen and is now only slightly below 1 at 0.9. If R passes 1, this means the infection rate is growing.  

"And this assessment does not take into account yesterday's relaxations. In other words, considering the easing, R will probably be 1 this week. And that's why we couldn't rush to make new decisions," he said.

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.

What is R?

The reproduction number (R) is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person.

An R value of 1 means that on average every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of infections is stable.

If R is 2, on average, each infected person infects 2 more people. If R is 0.5 then on average for each 2 infected people, there will be only 1 new infection.

If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking. The higher R is above 1, the more people 1 infected person infects and so the faster the epidemic grows.

R can change over time. For example, it falls when there is a reduction in the number of contacts between people, which reduces transmission. R increases when the numbers of contacts between people rise, leading to a rise in viral transmission.

Source: UK government website

Editor's note: This article was updated to add additional quotes from Tanel Kiik.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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