While children in kindergarten tend to have mild cases of the coronavirus, they can still carry the virus asymptomatically. Since the children are not tested, kindergarten managers fear there could be undetected outbreaks all over.
Heda Kala, head of the Elementary Education Association and manager of the Tartu Meelespea kindergarten, said there are some groups with just a few children. The kindergartens do not know whether the children have the coronavirus or a regular cold.
"If a responsible parent decides to test the child, it becomes clear they are positive for the coronavirus. We have had cases for the smallest children, two-year olds in daycare. If it turns out one child is positive, only then will other parents rush to testing," Kala said.
She added that infections in coronavirus data are only counted if officially tested. Therefore, Kala said, it is unknown how many infectious children there are.
Estonian Educational Personnel Union director Reemo Voltri said children in kindergartens should also be regularly tested. "It is already too late if a teacher goes to testing for symptoms and half of the group are already infected. We are still doing nothing, not even testing them. We will not know where and how much there is of this virus. This information will also not reach homes," Voltri said.
Ministry of Education and Research adviser Mario Kadastik said the spread of the virus is fastest among those aged 7-9, which is why schools will regularly test their students.
He admitted however, that infections in kindergartens could be higher than data shows. "Should the monitoring studies be extended to kindergartens for some periods... I am going to be honest: that is not a bad idea. We can consider it, but there are no plans for it currently. I cannot say how the parents will feel about it. It also depends on how the tests are conducted," Kadastik said.
"Perhaps the 'lollipop' method, which was canceled in schools, maybe we can implement that in kindergartens," the education ministry official said. Kadastik said the local municipality governments as kindergarten managers can arrange for this kind of testing.
The 'lollipop' method involves the children sucking on a cotton swab instead of the test being taken from their nose.
"The local municipality government can implement additional precautionary measures, we have nothing against that. If there is greater interest for it, it is certainly possible to find resources in the crisis measures. It is a separate topic for discussion, the local governments have the ability and competence to do it," Kadastik noted.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste