Students who refuse vaccine or testing must isolate as close contacts

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Vaccinations at Läänemere High School. Source: Kirsti Ruul

Students, whose parents are refusing to get them vaccinated or tested when they are in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus must remain in self-isolation if they are deemed close contacts during the schoolyear.

The Ministry of Education recently sent schools directives on how to organize schoolwork in the upcoming year so that the coronavirus would impede contact learning as little as possible.

One of the main factors of a successful schoolyear are vaccinations, which will now be administered by school nurses. Students are vaccinated against other illnesses in schools, as well, but it requires parents to give permission. This has led schools to send parents permission forms ahead of the start of September. If a parent does not give permission or if their child is under 12 years old, the child needs to go through coronavirus rapid testing if they are deemed close contacts of someone infected with COVID-19. This also requires a parent's permission.

If the school is given permission to test the student, their close contact period will end with two tests and they do not have to isolate. If they are not given permission, however, the child is treated as someone infected with COVID-19 and they must quarantine at home.

Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) said that if the school can involve the isolated student via distance learning, it is great, but if the school cannot do so, the student must follow along alone.

Rapid tests are among the main measures that schools will use in an attempt to keep doors open in the upcoming schoolyear. Kersna called schools to not send students home too fast, because research has shown that rapid tests are just as effective as quarantining, which is why the first option should be preferred.

The minister noted that schools will not be closed nationally this schoolyear, but if there are outbreaks within schools, classes or even that specific school can be sent to distance learning.

Mask-wearing obligation for unvaccinated university students

Universities are calling their students and professors to get vaccinated, because there is no better defense against the coronavirus. Universities Estonia chairman Mart Kalm said most universities think unvaccinated members of their academic family should wear masks. Nobody will be left out of schoolwork, because everyone has the right to education, but schools have an obligation to ensure that right as safely as possible.

"Universities will not organize hybrid learning for unvaccinated students. Everyone not vaccinated have to wear masks. Unvaccinated people should not be stigmatized, which is why it would be nice if the more careful vaccinated people would also wear masks," Kalm noted.

He called university managements to also wear masks, because they are in contact with a lot of people and masks give them the additional protection necessary.

More than 75 percent of education workers are now vaccinated, the vaccine coverage among education workers exceeds 80 percent in some counties. The highest vaccination rates are in Harju and Tartu counties (85 percent), but more than 60 percent of the workers in Ida-Viru County, Estonia's slowest region when it comes to vaccinations, are also vaccinated.

The ministry's action plan is aiming to vaccinate at least 70 percent of young people aged 16-17 and 90 percent of teachers, educators and youth workers vaccinated with at least one dose by the end of the first two months of the academic year.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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