Omicron spread sees Covid cases in schools triple over past week

Rapid testing in an Estonian school.
Rapid testing in an Estonian school. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Rapid testing in schools resulted in a three-fold increase in positive Covid cases over the past week, to 3,899 among pupils, teachers and other staff combined. Over half the positive results were reported in Harju County, the most populous region of the country.

The number of schools posting no positive Covid cases fell from 252 last week, to 170 this week.

Education minister Liina Kersna (Reform) said: "We definitely recommend continuing the rapid testing of the whole school family next week - twice a week in high-infection areas and at least once a week in other areas."

Kersna added that propagation of the Omicron Covid strain was behind much of the growth – and last week's result of 1,224 cases was the highest since testing began two-and-a-half months ago – adding that if schools feel it necessary to send a class or even the entire school to distance learning for a short time in an effort to arrest the viral spread further, this is understandable, but must be considered carefully and involve discussions between the school administrator and the Health Board (Terviseamet).

"Whenever possible, students should be provided with contact education," Kersna added.

The majority of schools still provide rapid school testing, a practice which started on November 1 and was suspended during the school Christmas and New Year break.

The schools also respond to a survey at the same time as conducting the tests, which schoolchildren can carry out themselves using a rapid testing kit, with parental supervision if needed.

The vast majority of schools tested all students and teachers two times over the past week, though many schools tested additionally, particularly in the case of classes where a positive case or close contact had already been identified.

A positive result from a rapid test is not definitive, and must receive confirmation subsequently from a health-care professional.

The breakdown of the survey's responses for the past week is as follows:

  • 501 general education schools and 30 vocational schools responded to the survey, covering tests comprising 140,000 students and 24,000 employees.
  • At general education schools, 128,039 students and 21,967 employees were tested, while the same figures in vocational schools were 12,260 schoolchildren and 2,226 staff in respectively.
  • 81 per cent of pupils and 87 per cent of teaching and other staff were tested in general education schools, with the figure for vocational schools being 65 per cent and 79 per cent respectively.
  • 3,321 students and 439 staff received a positive result from rapid tests in general education schools, with the figures for vocational schools being 113 and 26 respectively.
  • 170 schools posted no Covid-positive results whatsoever this week, down from 252 the previous week. Of the 170 cases, all bar 10 were in general education schools.
  • 55 percent of results were found in Harju County.
  • Five schools were on distance learning and reported no rapid test results, while at least one class and at least 11 students were put on a minimum of one day remote learning during the week.
  • 52 percent of respondents said schoolchildren tested in school, while 20 percent said pupils tested at home and the remaining 27 percent used a combination of this.
  • Of the vocational schools responding to the survey, 19 tested at home and the other 10 both at home and in school.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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