Scientific council: Closing schools unnecessary to manage pandemic

Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council.
Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Head of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar told ERR on Tuesday that keeping vaccinated children on remote learning is not needed to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was a decision made by the city of Tallinn," Lutsar said of Tallinn's decision to send all municipal schools in the city to remote learning while Harju County's infection indicators are significantly lower than in other counties, where schools are still open.

"It must have some indication - sending schools to remote learning this lightly should be the last option," Lutsar said. "Not allowing vaccinated children to school for contact learning is not fair to the children and also not necessary to manage the pandemic."

The scientific council leader said testing in schools is a very efficient measure to keep them open, especially if students go through rapid testing before going to school in the morning.

"If sick children do not go to school, then I believe we can keep schools open and student vaccination is also something that can keep schools open," Lutsar added.

At the same time, she noted that it would be incorrect to say that children cannot get infected, because there have been a few cases of seriously ill children.

Although Estonia rose to the top of the world in terms of infection indicators last week, Lutsar said comparisons are not suitable. "Estonia was first on infections last week, which does not mean that countries can be compared this way - countries would have to test equally in that case, but each country has their own testing strategy," Lutsar said.

Spread of Delta+ variant noted more and more

Lutsar said that while 5-7 percent of infections required hospitalization in the previous wave, that rate has fallen to 3-4 percent during the ongoing wave. She said vaccinations are the cause of the drop.

The scientific council head pointed out that the rate of intra-hospital infections has never been higher, however.

Although the Delta variant is still most common in Europe, Lutsar said the Delta+ variant is spreading more and more in countries such as the UK, Poland and the Netherlands. "Yes, it has been noted that it spreads 15-18 percent faster than the Delta variant itself," Lutsar said.

There has been no spread of the Delta+ variant in Estonia yet. "We only find the Delta variant each week, we have not found anything else for some time. There are also no variants on the horizon, which would no longer be a subspecies of the Delta variant," the virologist said.

Lutsar said that while the number of hospitalized patients has stabilized, the critical situation is far from over, which means any talk of easing restrictions is premature. "First dose vaccinations are still what will finally decide the situation," the scientific council leader said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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