TALLINN – The Estonian government on Thursday approved an order easing the quarantine obligation for students up to the age of 18 and for students who will turn 19 during the upcoming school year, who are close contacts of a person infected with COVID-19.
The aim of the change is to cause as little disruption as possible to the normal schooling of children and young people, while ensuring infection safety control for students exposed to COVID-19, spokespeople for the Ministry of Education and Research said.
From Sept. 1, vaccinated students in general education and vocational schools will not be required to quarantine after close contact with a coronavirus patient. Students who are not vaccinated must be tested at school to avoid quarantine, which is done in a child-friendly way and generally in a school setting.
Liina Kersna, minister of education and research, said the aim of the change is to keep healthy pupils in school.
"We are going into the new school year observing the principle that only sick children stay at home. Studies have confirmed that children fall ill significantly less frequently than adults, they go through the illness either asymptomatically or significantly more easily when infected, and rarely require hospitalization. In order to prevent learning from suffering, the terms for defining close contacts in educational institutions have been changed and we will start testing close contacts at educational institutions," the minister said.
From Sept. 1, fully vaccinated employees and students with no symptoms of the disease do not need to quarantine after close contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
Unvaccinated students aged 12-18, and students who will turn 19 in the academic year starting in September, must take a rapid test first in case of close contact in an educational institution, and a PCR test not earlier than 72 hours after the rapid test. A negative test result does not require quarantine. The tests are performed in a child-friendly way and generally in a school setting.
If the parent or guardian or the student does not give permission for testing, the student must remain in quarantine as normal because there is no possibility to assess his or her infection safety.
If an unvaccinated student becomes a close contact outside the general education or vocational school, he or she must remain in self-isolation in the normal way, regardless of age.
In case of any signs of illness, everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, must stay at home and contact their family doctor.
In the coming days, the Ministry of Education and Research will send instructions to all educational establishments on how to organize teaching in the new school year.