STOCKHOLM, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) --- Swedish parents have been told to keep young children away from kindergartens and primary schools should a member of the child's household test positive for COVID-19, according to new recommendations from the country's Public Health Agency on Tuesday.
Chair of the Swedish Teachers' Union, Johanna Jaara Astrand, welcomed the move. "This is a very important measure," she told Swedish Television. "It will help calm teachers but also allow them to focus on the right things. They won't have to act as infection guards but can instead invest time and energy in other tasks."
Up until now, the Public Health Agency has said that the recommendation applies to older children, including high-school pupils. In its statement on Tuesday, the Agency emphasized that young children do not tend to be highly infectious and that the main purpose of the new recommendation is to alleviate the burden of kindergarten and school staff.
However, Astrand insisted that more and more teachers are falling ill with COVID-19 and that many claim to have been infected at work.
According to Minister for Education Anna Ekstrom, school staff must be protected during the pandemic. At a news conference on Tuesday, she urged all educators to act responsibly by preventing crowding at school premises. The new recommendation, Ekstrom suggested, constitutes an important shift that will bring a higher degree of clarity around the rules.
The new recommendation was announced as the total COVID-19 death toll neared 6,800 in Sweden, with over 17,600 new cases reported between Friday and Tuesday, Public Health Agency's figure showed. Out of those, 117 have succumbed to the disease.
Currently, there are 239 COVID-19 patients in Swedish intensive care units (ICUs), and a total of 3,363 have received intensive care since the pandemic first broke out, according to the Swedish Intensive Care Registry.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including Sweden, Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 26, there were 213 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 49 of them were in clinical trials.