Ministry of Education Bulletin – 18 August, 2021

Please note, in the latest Ministry of Education Bulletin, specific reference to:

  • Accessing school premises
  • New face covering requirements
  • Locations of Interest
  • Alert Level 4 restrictions
  • Emergency response coordinators
  • Agencies you can contact for assistance.

18 August 2021

Iona Holsted – Secretary for Education


New Zealand is in Alert Level 4
Kia ora koutou,
Connecting with families and whānau is so important when children are away from school. I hope you have had the opportunity to start that today.
Alert Level 4 is different this time.
The extremely contagious nature of the Delta variant and the intention to stamp it out does mean that Health advice is very cautious. Having noted that the Delta variant is more contagious between people, it does not behave any differently on hard surfaces and therefore going into classrooms and back to school is fine. We have to balance the new risks of the Delta Variant with not getting people so fearful that they never want their children to come back to school. We know, from the modelling that many more cases of the Delta variant will be identified before we get out of this, and this will add to fears. As you will know, the important thing is to connect cases and get to the source. Health officials are working overtime to do that!
I know that the inability to get devices and hard materials out to students who did not take things home with them before the relatively late Alert Level change is a challenge – particularly for Tāmaki Makaurau.
As soon as we are able to advise of the procedure required to enable device/hard material dispensing we will send out a special bulletin, most likely some time tomorrow.

Thank you all for your quick work as we respond to the latest changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. I want to acknowledge the pressure that moving into Alert Level 4 put on many of you, your communities and their livelihoods. He waka eke noa – we’re all in this together.

As expected, we’ve been fielding a variety of questions and we’ve endeavoured to answer some of them in the bulletin today. We will continue to provide updates in the coming days.
Kia kaha

Accessing school premises
We are working with Health to seek an exemption to allow devices and/or hard pack materials to be distributed to support distance learning.
If approved. there would be very strict criteria to manage a contactless system. We are working very closely with the public health experts on what those protocols would need to be, in order to keep staff and communities safe. The same requirements that have always applied to keep us safe, continue to be the same. Physical distancing from others remains fundamental to this, as does staying away if feeling unwell.
We remain in the first 24 hours of Alert Level 4 and, as noted in last night’s bulletin, the first 24 hours is crucial in managing this outbreak. The new cases announced today further highlight the risk, currently. Staying at home is the number one priority for the safety of all.
The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (health order) does allow in limited circumstances (under clause 18(2)) that a person can go to the premises in order to “enable workers to work, or continue to work, remotely or from their place of residence”. For example, if there is an issue with IT that is preventing staff and students from working and learning, an individual could go to the school site to restore systems.  It does not allow that person to stay onsite and work from the school grounds for an extended period of time.
The health order under the same clause also permits anyone to care for animals. Anyone going to the school site for these specific purposes, must follow all other public health requirements including keeping physically distanced and wearing face coverings.
Please note that school hostels are a business or service able to operate at Alert Level 4. This is primarily to enable staff to support boarders who are not able to safely return home. There are no restrictions on accessing the workplace for staff who are needed to work onsite at a school hostel throughout Alert Level 4 (or any other alert level). Our advice remains that staff should stay onsite wherever possible, to prevent mixing of household and hostel bubbles.

New face covering requirements
From 11.59pm tonight, it becomes mandatory to wear a face covering when visiting essential businesses and services that are open in Alert Level 4 (e.g. pharmacy, supermarket, health services). It is also a requirement for staff to wear a face covering. The exemption remains in place for Under 12s who are not required to wear a face covering.

Locations of interest – rapidly growing
With new cases announced today – 10 cases in total – the number of locations of interest will continue to grow. For those in Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, please encourage your community to keep checking the list on the Ministry of Health website.

10 things you need to know about Alert Level 4

  1. Schools and early learning services are closed onsite, but open for distance learning 

    All schools and early learning services are closed onsite but open to provide support for distance learning. If you continue to support distance learning through this period of closure, your school is considered to be open for instruction and you will need to record attendance in your SMS for all students.

    See our information about Attendance codes for more information.
  2. Only essential services or business can open

    In Alert Level 4, only essential businesses and services are operating. This means that parents and caregivers may be required to go to work, rather than work from or stay at home. These people will need to make their own childcare arrangements.
  3. Face coverings are a vital tool to reduce spread

    Only leave your home if you need to, and please wear a face covering when you do. We know of instances where people have picked up Delta simply by walking past someone with it.

    Face coverings are required on public transport and domestic flights, in taxis and ride-share services and at any business operating at Alert Level 4 (supermarkets, pharmacies etc.). Those aged under 12 remain exempted from having to wear face coverings.
  4. People must only leave their homes for essential purposes

    You can only leave home to shop for groceries, access necessary healthcare, get a COVID-19 test, exercise in your local area or go to work if you are working in an Alert Level 4 service and you cannot work from home.
  5. Schools will be cleaned and contact tracing will take place 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. School cleaning will take place when we move to Alert Level 3.
  6. Fundamental public health measures continue to apply at every alert level:

    • Physical distancing
    • Hand hygiene
    • Cough and sneeze etiquette
    • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces
  7. Testing remains a crucial component in preventing an outbreak

    If people have cold or flu symptoms they should call their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested. If recommended to get tested, they should do so.
  8. Locations of interest

    If you have been at a location of interest within the relevant time periods, please follow all public health advice. You must call Healthline for information about getting a test.
  9. Stay within your personal bubble

    At Alert Level 4 people must stay home and keep within their immediate household bubble. There may be extended bubbles where there are shared care and custody arrangements.
  10. Your Ministry regional office team is available to provide support

For more detailed information for Alert Level 4 please refer to our health and safety guidance.

Emergency response coordinators
We encourage you to have the contact details for the emergency response coordinators for your region in the event your school is damaged as the result of fire, flood or extreme weather. 

Your local coordinator can be found on the Emergency response coordinators page on our website.

COVID information for Pacific communities
Key information on COVID-19 is available in nine Pacific languages on the Ministry for Pacific Peoples website.

Agencies you can contact for assistance
Many families may find it tough going back into Alert Level 4. It can be challenging having children at home, being cut off from family and friends, trying to making ends meet and have high stress levels.

For people with disabilities or autism and their support people, the Explore 0800 000421 phone service available to provide advice or support. This includes advice or support around challenging behaviours. To access this service, you don’t need a referral and it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to Explore, currently on their waitlist or you’ve worked with them previously. The service is available Monday to Friday 9.00am–5.00pm. When you phone the 0800 number you will be connected with an administrator who will then book you an appointment with one of the specialists.

If you or anyone you know wants some advice or support over this time here are some further options that might be useful.

Support services that remain open:

  • Women’s Refuge 0800REFUGE or 0800 733 843
  • Shine 0508 744 633
  • Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
  • Oranga Tamariki call centre 0508FAMILY
  • CADS 0800 367 222
  • Narcotics Anonymous 0800 628 632
  • Alcoholics Anonymous 0800 229 6757
  • Lifeline 0800 543 354 or free text 4357
  • Youthline 0800 376 633 or free text 234
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666
  • Outline (LGBT) 0800 688 5463
  • Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Prevention Helpline 0508 828 865
  • The Fono West (Social Services) 09 837 1780
  • Counselling Free Call or Text 1737
  • Healthline for COVID-19 health advice: 0800 358 5453

Work and Income services centres are closed. However, you can apply for assistance via MyMSD or phone the contact centre on 0800 559 009.
If you need some assistance with food these food banks may be able to help. Call first for instructions of how they are operating to ensure physical distancing:

  • Auckland City Mission (City) 09 303 9200
  • Salvation Army (Henderson) 09 837 4471
  • Vinnies Auckland (Newton) 09 815 6122 or 0800 6800
  • Hope Centre (New Lynn) 02108048436
  • Vision West (Glen Eden) 09 818 0716 – Mon, Wed, Fri only

If you’re in Auckland, the Auckland Emergency Management website may be useful.
If you know someone who needs financial assistance, please tell him/her to call the free government helpline 0800 779 997 (8am–1am, seven days a week). 
If you know someone is feeling anxious, frustrated or needs a listening ear, they can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor. It is free 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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