Fr, 2.12.2022

Covid spreading among students

Loora-Elisabet Lomp
, Eesti uudiste päevatoimetaja
Covid spreading among students
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Photo: Marko Saarm

The Health Board believes hobby schools opening for the season could translate into a spike in new coronavirus cases despite the reproduction rate for minors falling. The number of care home, educational institution and workplace outbreaks is growing.

There are currently six coronavirus outbreaks in schools in Estonia. A number of students have been told to isolate. Head of the Health Board’s eastern branch Marje Muusikus said that both Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru counties are seeing new cases in the 7-19 age group. “Someone is diagnosed every day and in different classes,” Muusikus said. A first-grader recently tested positive using a rapid test and is now waiting for their PCR test result.

Asked whether we could be looking at a spike in the number of cases, Muusikus said that the virus started spreading among young people back in August, with summer camp outbreaks.

Schools on edge

Muusikus’ region also has children under 12 years of age who came to school showing symptoms and were diagnosed with the coronavirus. “Should their teacher be unvaccinated, it means they have to stay home,” she added. The official said that things are tense in schools as healthcare workers and teachers must monitor every single child to make sure no one attends school exhibiting symptoms. “We can use rapid tests to determine whether students exhibiting symptoms are carrying the virus with parental consent,” Muusikus added.

Tiia Luht, head of Health Board South, told Postimees that the situation is terrible in her region. “We still have inspectors out there today (Thursday evening – author) because it is a record day – we have over 200 cases,” Luht said, adding that mostly, young people are affected. “We have registered at least 50 cases in schools this week alone.”

Attending school when sick

“Students mostly come to school when they are already infectious (two weeks before symptoms manifest – author), while more than a few have come showing symptoms,” Luht said. Employees of Health Board South were packing PCR testing kits to administer them in schools the following day. “We also got three nursing home outbreaks today (Thursday – author) and the situation is bad,” she said with a sigh.

Luht suggested that groups of friends have already been created in schools in Southern Estonia, meaning that there will be more infections. “We need a miracle at this point,” Luht said.

Deputy Director of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma told Postimees she has not heard about children exhibiting Covid symptoms attending school. “However, I would hold it to be rather likely that children with cold symptoms are going to school because we also have the rhinovirus,” Härma said, adding that parents then send in negative Covid test results and say that the child simply has a slight cold. “That is quite possible,” Härma admitted.

She emphasized that the guidelines apply to everyone. Anyone exhibiting any symptoms of illness must stay home. “We have also seen people with a cold attend events where Covid certificates are checked and later prove Covid-positive,” Härma said, adding that such cases remain few. “We can see people with light symptoms decide to go out. “Stay home when sick and get tested if you suspect the coronavirus,” she reiterated. “It is also possible to get tested at home as pharmacies offer very good self-test kits.”

Member of the government’s COVID-19 scientific advisory committee Krista Fischer told Postimees that Põlva County is seeing the most cases, followed by Võru County. The infection rate is considerable in the 10-19 age group. The rate is serious among 10-19-year-olds in Valga County, with over 1 percent diagnosed with the coronavirus in a week,” Fischer pointed out.

Elderly diagnosed

Infections among elderly people have not been ruled out. Can we say that both young and old people are being infected all over Estonia? “Yes, the infection rate is up in the 10-19 age group. More specifically, we saw the most new cases among 10-14-year-olds this week,” the scientist said, adding that the rate of infection has slowed among the elderly.

“What we are seeing is children and their parents being infected,” Fischer said. She added that past experience suggests this will eventually take the virus to older people. “We are hoping that general vaccination coverage will slow it down and that elderly people who have not yet been immunized are vaccinated soon,” she said.

Unvaccinated students 12-18 years of age and those turning 19 this year have the option of simplified quarantine this year that will apply if their close contact happens at school.

Simple quarantine for students

An unvaccinated close contact is expected to administer an antigen rapid test as soon as possible that needs to be followed by a PCR test no sooner than 72 hours from taking the first one.

If the student shows no symptoms and tests negative, they can continue contact study in school. Children under the age of 12 are not tested at school.

Children or their parents refusing the test in school must quarantine in normal procedure, with the student sent home.

Students who agree to testing can continue to attend school but cannot take part in extracurricular activities. A positive or inconclusive rapid test result should warrant a new test. If the result remains positive or inconclusive, the student needs to be sent home and in for additional testing via the family doctor. This ends simplified quarantine and the student will have to isolate until the test results are in.

Children whose parents are diagnosed must remain in isolation.

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