COVID-19 Update: Schools are open to everyone.

COVID-19 update Ministry of Education
23 June 2021
Kia ora koutou

You will be aware of the visitor from Sydney who traveled to Wellington for the weekend and on return to Sydney has tested positive for COVID-19.

Health authorities are working quickly to identify places of interest and follow up with any close contacts. It was reassuring to hear that two close contacts have already tested negative and two others have been isolating since last night. There are locations of interest listed on the Health website which will be updated if further sites are identified.

As Minister Hipkins announced this afternoon, out of an abundance of caution Wellington is moving to Alert Level 2 at 6pm tonight until 11.59pm on Sunday. This includes Wairarapa and the Kāpiti Coast to north of Ōtaki. The rest of New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 1.

We’ve been here before and know what to do but below are some key reminder messages, particularly that schools remain open to everyone at Alert Level 2.

We’re working closely with the Ministry of Health as we always do and will be in touch as needed.

Kia kaha
Iona Holsted, Secretary of Education

Alert Level 2 applies from 6pm tonight until 11.59pm on Sunday, 27 June.

1. Schools are open to everyone.
At Alert Level 2 the disease is contained but there is still risk of community transmission. It is safe for children and staff to attend school and for school hostels to be operating as there will be appropriate measures in place, including for children and staff vulnerable to severe illness.

2. Schools are not classified as gatherings and a range of events and activities can go ahead.
For most day to day activities at schools, the rules for gatherings do not apply. Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Order, schools are exempted from physical distancing requirements when people are there to receive, provide, or support education services.

However as soon as your event or activity brings people onsite who are not there for education purposes, including students, parents and caregivers, then the rules for gatherings do apply. This would include performances such as school plays, cultural events and sporting activities.

3. Learning will be onsite with distance learning offered in some circumstances.
Distance learning should be provided for those required to self-isolate, those individuals who health authorities have asked to stay away while waiting for a test result, or those choosing to remain at home because they are vulnerable to illness.

4. Schools will close for cleaning and contact tracing if there is a confirmed case who was infectious when at school.
Your Director of Education will work closely with you and health authorities should this occur. Please contact your Ministry regional office if you hear of a confirmed case in your school community but haven’t been advised about it by health officials.

5. Face coverings are not required at school or on any school transport.
This includes charter buses hired by the school to transport students and staff. Anyone who chooses to wear a face covering in any setting should be supported to do so.

Face coverings must be worn on public transport and are encouraged to be worn when waiting for public transport and in taxis and rideshare services. If you are in Wellington also consider wearing a face covering when interacting with people you don’t know and where physical distancing is not possible.

6. Sick people must stay at home.
They should seek medical advice if they have COVID-like symptoms, including aches and pains and get tested if advised to do so. If that person displays relevant symptoms of COVID-19, tests positive for COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they must self-isolate.

7. You must have a contact tracing system in place.
This includes displaying QR code posters at your entrances, your timetable, attendance register and visitor register.

8. Fundamental public health measures continue to apply at every alert level:

  • Physical distancing (not touching and not breathing on each other at Alert Level 2)
  • Hand hygiene
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces.

9. Think and plan carefully before you go ahead with any activity that brings a large number of students together and/or spectators are involved.
Some events may need to be cancelled or postponed when we are at Alert Level 2. Inter-regional travel is possible but only where you are confident the appropriate measures will be in place at the host venue, including requirements for gatherings.

10. Your Ministry regional office team is available to provide support.
For more detailed information for Alert Level 2, please refer to our health and safety guidance.

See also our Guidance for school hostels Alert Levels 1 – 4.

Alert Level 1 – all of New Zealand excluding Wellington region
If you have anyone in your community who was at one of these locations and at the times specified on the Ministry of Health website, they will need to follow the relevant instructions which will include staying at home and getting tested for COVID-19 (five days after last exposure to the confirmed case).

For those people in a household with someone identified as a contact or close contact, they should follow the advice provided by health authorities for that individual. If unsure what to do, contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) for guidance.

Everyone else will need to continue to follow the public health requirements we are very familiar with, at all alert levels:

  • Stay home (or go home) if you are unwell.
  • If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to see if you need a test.
  • Wear face coverings on public transport and domestic flights, and you are encouraged to do the same when travelling by taxi or similar.
  • Keep up your good hygiene practices (washing hands, cough/sneeze etiquette).
  • Keep track of where you have been.

Our regional team continues to be available to provide support, and further guidance about COVID-19 is on our website here:

10 things you need to know about Alert Level 1
Public health measures and recommendations for schools

The following websites continue to be the best source of information regarding COVID-19 in New Zealand:

Unite against COVID-19
COVID-19 | Ministry of Health NZ