Isolation requirement for close contacts at school creates confusion

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Children on September 1. Source: (Hanna Samoson/ERR)

The isolation requirement for close contacts at school is creating confusion among parents, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, with a lack of comprehension on why staying in isolation is dependent on the location of where a student came into contact with an infected person. Why a child that was in close contact with an infected person during extra-curricular activities can't go to school has also met with pushback.

From this academic year, the rules for students to remain isolated are different than last year, partly because schools have resumed with in-class learning rather than remote learning as earlier in the pandemic.

If a child comes into contact with an infected person at school or nursery and is under 12 years of age, he can continue in school or nursery. Older children who have been vaccinated or have been sick with the coronavirus and recovered during the last six months can also go to school.

Others can only go to school if they receive a negative test result. After 72 hours, the Health Board (Terviseamet) must perform a PCR test, which must also be negative.

However, everything is different when a child is in contact with an infected person in a hobby group, such as sports practice. Then he is not allowed to go to school and has to stay home for ten days.

"In the case of hobby groups, we usually have heterogeneous groups - children come together from different schools, and if the infection spreads from there, it spreads very extensively and to different schools," Juta Varjas, the chief specialist of the Health Board said.

Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) explained that it was decided to make a distinction between schools and hobby schools to see if schools can be kept open using quick tests.

"If this system works and we see that if we don't send the children home as close contacts and this system works, then one day we can move on to hobby education, for example," Kersna said.

If the parent does not allow the child to be tested, the child must stay in quarantine.

All schools receive child-friendly quick tests, such as throat rinsing tests, which can be done by the student themselves under adult supervision. If a nursery child has been exposed to the coronavirus outside the nursery, he must also self-isolate.

There are a total of 600 infected school and nursery children, 16 children have been infected in a nursery and 20 children in school. The rest have been infected in the family or it is not known where the infection came from.

"Currently, we are examining an outbreak in a school. In two cases we can the infection was brought in by a teacher," Varjas said.

This refers to a Tallinn school where a teacher who brought the infection was vaccinated, in the other case it is not known how the infection reached the school.

There are seven nurseries and playgroups with outbreaks in Estonia and the number of infected children is rising in kindergartens.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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