Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) said that the almost 80 percent of students at schools underwent who coronavirus rapid testing in the first week of this being standard practice was a satisfactory result. The testing, conducted by the majority of general education schools, has returned around 900 positive coronavirus cases from just over 430 schools.
Almost 90 percent of staff at Estonia's general education schools also underwent testing, according to results of a survey filled in by well over 80 percent of general education schools nationwide.
Speaking about the results, Kersna said she: "Would like to thank all schools who are contributing to detecting virus cases by conducting testing and thus prevent new school outbreaks and enabling continued contact learning."
"I also want to thank parents for being understanding in this complicated situation and having contributed to rapid testing proving successful. Regular rapid testing has made the school environment safer for everyone - teachers and students as well as parents, who can send their kids to school with peace of mind," the minister went on.
"Schools' feedback to testing was generally positive. According to our survey, in 58 schools there were no people refusing testing, on the average 8 percent of students refused to get tested in schools," Kersna added. "It was also pointed out that despite there having been much agitation and confusion over testing at first, the process became smoother and faster with each testing session and in their feedback, schools said that rapid testing should continue."
From last Monday, government restrictions required antigen rapid tests be introduced at schools, which children performed themselves, at home, and with parental supervision where necessary and in accordance with teachers' instructions.
The Ministry of Education and Research sent a questionnaire to all general education schools in Estonia to determine how the first week of testing had passed, and the survey results, which Kersna was commenting on, showed that on average 77 percent of all students, and 88 percent of staff members, were tested in schools.
The smallest number of schools that carried out testing were located in Ida-Viru and Pärnu counties, where many schools are providing instruction remotely.
The share of students tested was largest in schools on Saaremaa and in Tartu and Jõgeva counties.
Regular, rapid testing helps keep schools open and enables learning to take place in a safe environment, the minister said.
431 schools, over 80 percent of the total, across Estonia filled out the questionnaire about testing, accounting for 83.4 percent of all general education schools.
799 students and 102 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus from those schools responding.
On the average, two students per school tested positive, and 184 schools had no positive test results.
Eight schools, mainly in Pärnu County, did not conduct any testing.
19 schools only carried out testing once, 158 schools twice, 243 schools three times and three schools more than three times, BNS reports.
The regulations which came into effect on November 1 state that pupils will have to take rapid tests thrice weekly. A positive test returned on a home kit is not definitive, and must be verified by a healthcare professional, while this aspect of the restrictions is not regulated by a government order.
The Ministry of Education and Research is to continue with the current testing model for one more week and will subsequently decide on the need for rapid testing according to the epidemiological situation, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte