On Thursday, the government is set to discuss questions regarding the upcoming schoolyear. Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) told ERR that the government should ensure contact classes in schools.
Kersna spoke to Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" and said she wants to move forward on a principle that would not send all students home in case someone in the class is deemed a close contact. "I can certainly say that all vaccinated students and teachers do not have to go to self-isolation as close contacts," the minister said.
Kersna will go to the government on Thursday with a proposal to establish new rules in regards to distance learning, only sending students who have tested positive for COVID-19 home. The minister hopes on reaching a final version of the plan at Thursday's government sitting.
Although children under the age of 12 are not vaccinated, Kersna thinks students in grades 1-6 and special needs students should not be sent to distance learning. "I hope we make decisions on if we can make simplified self-isolation rules or not," Kersna said.
Simplified rules would mean that unvaccinated students deemed close contacts would go through two rapid tests within three days. They would only be sent to distance learning in case one of those tests is positive, the students would still participate in contact learning between the tests.
Kersna admitted that there is a problem with vaccine access - vaccines in Tartu and Harju counties are more easily accessible than in Lääne County. She confirmed that the government is working on solving the issue and noted that vaccinations in school could be an option.
The minister also wants no exemptions made between general education and hobby education because they are part of one system. She did say, however, that hobby activities with higher infection risk could take part outdoors.
Answering show host Mirko Ojakivi's question regarding teacher vaccinations, Kersna said unvaccinated teachers would be tested regularly. She also considers it possible to impose a mask-wearing obligation on those who are not vaccinated.
The negative effects of closing schools on childrens' mental health and physical activity is significantly greater than the positive effects of stopping the spread of COVID-19, Kersna said. "We can see from exam results that study results have gone down," she pointed out. "There are scientific conclusions and now, experience, that schools should not be closed entirely. I believe the government has a common position on this."
She explained that Latvia and Lithuania demand teachers be vaccinated, but she does not agree with forcing unvaccinated teachers out of the school system. "I am of the mind that they could prove their infection safety and we have planned that the state would provide teachers and students with rapid tests," Kersna said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste