Omicron forces almost half of schools to move to distance learning

An empty classroom.
An empty classroom. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Almost half of Estonian schools have moved to full or partial distance learning due to the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus strain which has pushed news cases to a record high.

Data from the Ministry of Education and Research shows 40 percent of schools are not teaching fully in person. As the Health Board believes the level of infection will rise in the coming weeks, it is expected more schools will move to distance learning.

Rapid testing in schools has helped, but in order to curb the current spread students and teachers must be tested every day. However, the state does not have enough capacity to carry this out.

Some schools are choosing to test staff members more than necessary so the tests are also running out.

Merike Kaste, director of Kristjan Jaak Peterson Gymnasium in Tartu, told "Aktuualne kaamera" on Monday it is "better to break the chain" of infection. The school is also running out of tests.

"There are currently 1,500 tests left, that's two tests each. We have 750 students and 45 teachers, so we can test two more times. We've tested all of the students for the omicron strain almost equally, both vaccinated and non-vaccinated," she said.

Marika Karo, the principal of Kambja Ignatsi Jaagu School in Tartu County, said last week the school hoped it could resume contact learning but today 170 students were off school.

"In addition to the sick students, we also have seven teachers at home, which is more than a third of our teachers," she said.

Minister of Education Liina Kersna (Reform) said the government will be able to offer an additional million rapid tests in schools next week.

Yesterday a record number of new cases of coronavirus were reported - more than 5,000.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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