Covid close contact quarantine for schoolchildren lifted from next week
From next week, the government is to simplify the regulations on coronavirus close contacts in schools, and is also likely to abolish the requirement for minors to hold coronavirus certification, ERR reports. The measure comes at a time when Reform's partner in office, Center, is calling for an overall removal of the Covid certification requirement.
The developments in schools were announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and education minister Liina Kersna (Reform).
Kallas said the Covid certificate requirement for minors will be lifted on February 14, with further restrictions easing likely, pending the epidemiological picture and particularly whether the Omicron strain spread has peaked or not, and in conjunction with the government's covid advisory body, dubbed the Scientific Council.
She said Tuesday that: "We can bring further relief if the spread of the virus starts to decline, probably during February. We will continue discussions with the Scientific Council and discussions with our coalition partner on this issue."
Meanwhile, the cabinet has decided that from next week, schoolchildren who have been exposed to a Covid case in school will not have to quarantine at home.
Speaking to Vikerraadion news show "Uudis+" on Tuesday, Liina Kersna said that: "From February 7, the procedure for determining close contact with the school will change."
"This means that from next week, all children who are healthy will be able to go to school. Those who are ill, regardless of whether they have tested positive for Covid or with another illness, will be at home," Kersna went on, and reiterated Kallas' announcement that the Covid certification requirement for minors will likely be gone a week after that.
As to Covid outbreaks in schools, Kersna said the current principle of deciding on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the Health Board (Terviseamet) on whether to go to remote learning would remain in place.
"If there are many infected people in a school or class, you can send the class or the school on to remote learning in consultation with the Health Board, as has been the case so far," Kersna said, adding that justification for doing so must be demonstrated.
In the case of a Covid case in the close family circle, however, a child must remain at home as a close contact, Kersna added, given that this would carry with it a greater likelihood of contracting the disease.
"In such cases, I encourage parents to talk to the school, so that the child can still take part in hybrid learning, for example, a video link is turned on in the classroom and the child can participate passively. This is better than nothing," she went on.
The practice of conducting rapid Covid tests in schools at least twice a week, started at the beginning of November and continued by most schools since then, is a key policy and will continue, she said.
Mask-wearing, particularly among older-grade students, should also continue, not least when a case has been found.
The decisions have been based on international organizations' recommendations, she added, noting that schools, children and younger people should be the last to undergo restrictions and the first to see the easing of existing restrictions.
Center MP: Reform procrastinating too much
Meanwhile, the Riigikogu group chair of the Center Party, Jaanus Karilaid, said that there is a leadership crisis in the cabinet on the issue of Covid certification as a whole, adding that his party is convening a crisis meeting on the issue.
Reform has been procrastinating too much, he said, adding that his party has urged a coalition council meeting with Reform as soon as possible.
"Our main argument is that the level of stress in society is already so high, the cost of lost jobs is very high. We should not waste any more time," Karilaid said.
"We want the abolition of the coronarvirus passport from February 7. We are ready to compromise to the extent that the passport could disappear by February 14," he went on.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte