MoE Update – 18 August 2021

Information supplied from Ministry of Education on 18 August 2021.  

New Zealand is in Alert Level 4

Message from the Secretary for Education

Kia ora koutou,

Connecting with families and whānau is so important when children are away from their usual activities. 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 early learning sites when alert levels allow 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 go back into early learning and childcare services.  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!

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

In today’s bulletin:

  • New face covering requirements
  • Locations of interest – rapidly growing
  • COVID information for Pacific communities
  • 10 things you need to know about Alert Level 4
  • Accessing premises
  • Childcare services for essential workers
  • Agencies you can contact for assistance

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 – at time of writing, seven 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.

COVID-19: Contact tracing location of interest – Ministry of Health website

COVID information for Pacific communities

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

Translated COVID-19 Information – Ministry for Pacific Peoples website

10 things you need to know about Alert Level 4

  1. Early Learning Services and kōhanga reo are closed onsite
    All early learning services and kōhanga reo are closed onsite.

    Resources are available online to support parents, whānau and caregivers to enable children’s learning from home (or wherever they’re based). To support this, we have resources and guidance available on our Learning from Home website

  2. Only Essential Services or Business can open 
    At Alert Level 4 only essential businesses and services are operating.  This means that parents, whānau and caregivers may be required to go to work, rather than work from or stay at home. For now these people will need to make their own childcare arrangements.

    Businesses that can have customers on their premises – COVID-19 website

  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.  

    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. 

    Wear a face covering – COVID-19 website

  4. People must only leave their homes for essential purposes
    You can only leave home to shop for groceries, access necessary healthcare (including for a confirmed vaccine appointment), 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. If you leave your home please keep track of where you’ve been (scan QR codes or sign in). 
  5. Early learning services and kōhanga reo will be cleaned and contact tracing will take place if there is a confirmed case who was infectious when at the site
    Your Director of Education will work closely with you and health authorities should this occur. Please contact your local Ministry office if you hear of a confirmed case linked to your early learning service or kōhanga reo but haven’t been advised about it by health officials. Any cleaning will take place when we move to Alert Level 3 and you can access the site.

    Local Ministry offices

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

    COVID-19 Contact tracing locations of interest – Ministry of Health website

  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.

    Meeting friends and whānau – COVID-19 website

  10. Your local Ministry office team is available to provide support
    For more detailed information for Alert Level 4, please refer to our health and safety guidance.

    Health and safety in licensed early learning services and kōhanga reo for COVID-19 [PDF, 792KB]

    You can see more advice for early learning services on our website.

    Advice for early learning services

Accessing premises

While New Zealand is in Alert Level 4, all early learning services and kōhanga reo are considered non-essential services and should be closed. There should be no visits to services to do work, cleaning, organising etc. as these are deemed non-essential. 

There are some circumstances where a visit to a service might be necessary such as feeding and caring for the animals at the service to ensure they stay safe and healthy. 

You will not need written permission to make visits to feed animals but please exercise caution in doing so and follow the physical distancing and hygiene rules.

Childcare services for essential workers

Please note that care in the child’s own home (eg nanny arrangements) can continue for essential workers so long as the guidance around bubbles is followed. This means the carer and their family members cannot have contact with any other people from outside the two bubbles.

At this stage the essential worker childcare scheme that operated last Alert Level 4 is not operating. However, we have been in contact with licensed homebased providers involved previously to seek their availability and capacity to provide childcare for essential service workers should this change. The Ministry welcomes contact from other licensed homebased providers. They can contact the Ministry via [email protected].

The Government must approve the essential worker childcare scheme, via a Health Order, before the scheme can be activated. 

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
  • Shine 0508 744 633
  • Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
  • Oranga Tamariki (call centre) 0508FAMILY
  • CADS 09 845 1818
  • Narcotics Anonymous 0800 628 632
  • Alcoholics Anonymous 0800 229 6757
  • Lifeline 0800 543 354 or free text 4357
  • Youthline 0800 376 633
  • 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.

Auckland Emergency Management website
If you know someone who needs financial assistance, please tell them to call the free government helpline 0800 779 997 (8am–1am, 7 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, 7 days a week.