Ida-Viru coronavirus outbreaks postpone start of schoolyear

Loora-Elisabet Lomp
Jõhvi Basic School has become the first school in Estonia to postpone the start of the schoolyear.
Jõhvi Basic School has become the first school in Estonia to postpone the start of the schoolyear. Photo: Pm

Five employees of the Jõhvi Basic School learned they have COVID-19 on Tuesday. Because Ida-Viru County has seen major outbreaks of the virus in recent weeks, connected to the Jõhvi Kelder bar and the Estonia and Ojamaa oil shale mines, it has become the first school in Estonia to postpone the start of the schoolyear.

Two teachers and three other employees of the Jõhvi Basic School have been diagnosed with COVID-19. They fell ill after visiting the Jõhvi Kelder bar. “Because the teachers were at the school making preparations for the start of the schoolyear, people who had contact with them could also take ill,” Postimees was told by Simmo Saar, press adviser for the Health Board.

Principal of the Jõhvi Basic School Liina Mihkelson said that all employees are feeling good and do not have serious symptoms. “We hope that the September 1 ceremony for the 1st and 9th grades can go ahead. Many teachers have been tested and cleared,” Mihkelson added.

September 1 to be postponed

Jõhvi deputy municipality mayor for culture, sports, youth and social work Maris Toomel said that the municipality government has decided to postpone start of contact study. “Considering the spread of the coronavirus in the county and the municipality, based on the recommendations of the Health Board and considering possible risks, the Jõhvi Municipality Government has decided to postpone contact study in the municipality’s basic and hobby schools,” Toomel explained.

The deputy mayor said that the municipality’s educational institutions (basic and hobby schools) will start the schoolyear on September 7.

According to the Health Board, there are several potential initial sources in the Jõhvi Kelder outbreak. “It is difficult to pinpoint the precise origin of the outbreak today,” Saar added. The authorities know that the disease spread from the bar to the Estonia mine and the Jõhvi Basic School.

The Estonia mine outbreak concerns 18 employees today. Head of Enefit Mines Andres Vainola said a few days ago that all Eesti Energia employees in Ida-Viru County who can work from home will be ordered to do that as a preventative measure. “We will also be taking all the precautions we had during the emergency situation this spring,” he added. Vainola said that supply security and vital services are safe – both Eesti Energia’s oil mills and power plants have enough fuel.

Six employees of Viru Keemia Grupp’s Ojamaa mine were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Tuesday. The company does not plan to close the mine. “We will not shut down the mine,” head of communications at VKG Irina Bojenko told BNS, adding that people who could have COVID-19 will not be allowed to come in before they have been tested.

Number of cases continues to grow

Ninety employees of the mine were tested on Monday, with tests for over 120 employees planned for Wednesday. Bojenko said that all cases are from a specific unit where employees have limited contact with others and work can be reorganized with the help of reserves. The company also plans to thoroughly disinfect the premises.

The Health Board said that the Ojamaa mine outbreak is not directly tied to the one at the Estonia mine or the Jõhvi Kelder outbreak. “The connection is too remote. An employee was infected by a family member and the virus has spread from there,” Saar explained.

As of Tuesday, the Health Board was monitoring 50 patients and over 300 people they’ve been in close contact with. “The figure is growing all the time,” Saar said.