Update 16 March 2020

As you will no doubt be aware, COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) has now been declared a pandemic.

The Ministry of Health has reinforced that this doesn’t change anything for New Zealand and our response to the virus.  The Ministry of Health has been working through its pandemic plan since January.

It is also reassuring that children appear to be at a lower risk for contracting the virus.


In general, we should continue to follow our standard procedures for cleaning, hygiene, and illnesses – but with a higher level of vigilance.



  • Centres should always be ensuring that surfaces within their centre are cleaned after every session. Where there are two sessions in one day, the centre must be cleaned between sessions.
  • Make sure that the following areas/items are being cleaned every session/between session:
    • Tables and other surfaces that people are regularly using
    • Door handles and areas of the door where little people might push it open
    • Toilets and taps
    • Any items or toys that get put in the mouth or coughed on – baby items, blocks, toy figures, paint brushes, dress ups, etc.
    • Tablets – Disinfectant wipes with a 70% isopropyl alcohol-base can be used on the tablets, otherwise spray a nonabrasive/antimicrobial or alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) disinfectant directly on a soft lint-free cloth and wipe down your device while it is powered down and unplugged. Something like Moki Screen wipes would be ok.
  • Make sure that used tissues are disposed of appropriately in a rubbish bin.
  • If you are using a disinfectant make sure it says it is antiviral and follow the instructions. It is important that disinfectant sits on the surface for around 10 seconds before being wiped off to enable it to work.
  • If centres are unable to procure suitable cleaning products to maintain hygiene they may need to close. The centre should contact their regional Centre Support Coordinator in order to discuss the situation.


Further advice on disinfecting:

A Reminder of the guidance in Nga Kupu Oranga relating to Cleaning and Disinfecting:

Good disinfectants to use are things that contain hypochlorite (which is the main active ingredient in bleach) or activated hydrogen peroxide (0.5%). The Ministry of Health recommends that ECE services will need to use a disinfectant that has at least 2% hypochlorite.

Supermarket bleach is usually 5% hypochlorite but can be 2.5% or 10% for “premium bleach”. 

If 5% hypochlorite, then a 1% solution should be used (1 part bleach to 100 parts water). 

If 2.5% hypochlorite, then a 2% mixture is best (1 part bleach to 50 parts water).

Click here for the relevant licensing criteria then click on the “Guidance” tab for bleach mixtures.

Centre should use a 1-2% bleach solution to spray surfaces until wet and allow to air dry.

Frequency: Throughout the day (e.g. on the changing table between nappy changes), between sessions, as well as after sessions

  • Prepare the diluted solution fresh daily (24 hours after being mixed with water, bleach begins to lose effectiveness)
  • Use an opaque spray bottle, as light decomposes sodium hypochlorite
  • Use cold water, as hot water decomposes sodium hypochlorite
  • Use a funnel, as splashes of bleach will remove colour from clothing
  • Spray surfaces until wet and allow to dry (e.g. tabletops, toilets, sinks, taps, door handles, handrails, rubbish bin lids)
  • Open windows and doors to ensure good ventilation and do not breathe bleach fumes
  • Never mix bleach with other cleaning products as it can create a toxic gas 
  • Discard unused portion at the end of the day
  • Store bleach in a cool dry place, away from heat and light, out of reach of children

For disinfection by immersion (e.g. soaking blocks), a contact time of 30 minutes is recommended.

Some centres have purchased products like this which mixes the solution on use, rather than having to do up a mixture every day  (this product Activate is only available to current customers of Hygiene House)


  • Continue to ensure that our tamariki and adults are washing their hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, or coughing and sneezing.
  • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds will dissolve the protective layer around the coronavirus and kill it.
  • Good Cough etiquette is also important – teaching tamariki and adults to cough into their elbows will assist in limiting the spread of the virus.
  • Consider keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser at the front door, if not already available.
  • Playdough and clay should be closely monitored to minimise sharing and playdough should be thrown away each day, with a new batch being made for the next session. Clay can be sterilised by pouring boiling water through it. However, it will need to be reinstated following that.
  • Make sure that tamariki and adults are not sharing cups, cutlery, plates, etc.


The Illness, Injury, and Incident Procedure (9.4.1) outlines the basic details of what to do for any illness, as well what to do if there is a pandemic.

If people are ill and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they should not come to the centre and should make contact with their doctor via phone. It is recommended they also contact the centre to advise that they are unwell.

COVID-19 is a notifiable illness, so if someone in your centre contracts it you will need to notify your regional Public Health Service, and the Ministry of Education. If someone connected to your centre is diagnosed outside the centre, the Public Health Service will contact you with information on next steps.


In general, we should not be excluding people or limiting attendance at this time. Attached is a sign that you can post at the door of your centre or on your gate to remind people who may be at risk not to come to your centre at this time. We need to remember that while we can ask people at risk to stay away, at this time we cannot exclude them.

However, if you do have reasonable grounds to believe that any person has an infectious or contagious disease or condition, then you must exclude that person from the centre and from coming into contact with children.

This is required by regulation 57 of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008.

People who are designated at risk should self-isolate for 14 days:

  • Anyone who has returned from overseas within the last 14 days.
  • If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 you should self-isolate for 14 days from the date of close contact.

What if you have centre members who have family/friends living with them who need to self isolate?  The people who do not meet the criteria above do not need to self isolate – as long as they are able to avoid situations where they have face-to-face contact closer than 1 metre for more than 15 minutes.  They should also avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils, and sheets, towels, etc.  We recommend that you discuss staying away from the centre with these members, and/or ask them to ensure that they are being extra vigilant with hygiene, however they are not required to.


Playcentre Open Week

Currently the Ministry of Health is not advising that any events or activities should be cancelled – this may change in the near future.

Playcentre Open Week is therefore going ahead, however each centre can make their own decision as to whether to carry on based on their communities situation.

You can place this sign on the door or gate to discourage people who may be infected from attending, and you can print the Ministry of Health sign with reminders of basic hygiene.

Ensure you have good facilities for washing hands, including hand sanitiser if necessary, and encourage members and visitors to use non-contact ways to greet and welcome each other.



We should also be respectful if people are concerned or anxious about the possibility of illness and be understanding if they wish to avoid Playcentre for a period – especially where they or a close family member has additional health issues.  We would recommend holding space for the family for at least a month – and longer if this will not cause issues for your centre (due to having waiting lists etc).


Extended Absences due to COVID-19

Where a child or children are away from the centre for a period longer than three weeks due to:

  • Being unable to return from overseas due to travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19
  • Needing to be self-isolating for 14 days following a prior absence (following overseas travel or contact with a known case)


  • Due to contracting the virus and needing to be away during recovery

we are able to receive funding for their absences for a longer period (up to 12 weeks).

In order to access this the centre must complete an EC12. These can be found here

Any supporting correspondence, such as emails from parents or caregivers should be kept along with the form. Once completed, ensure your Centre Admin has a copy so that they can add it to Discover.

If you need to provide advice to members who speak other languages, the Ministry of Health has resources in many languages on their website. Google translate can also be used if needed for other languages.

If we have members who are self-isolating, or required to be absent, please consider how your Playcentre community can support them – dropping off meals, picking up groceries for them, taking round a new book or toy (following hygiene and distancing guidelines). Stay in touch with the families during this time.


Closing the Centre/Lack of qualified personnel

Centres may be considering closing their sessions to help minimise the opportunities for community transmission of COVID-19 or due to lacking the people required to meet licensing/funding requirements.

Where there is a lack of qualified personnel, centres should continue to follow the Insufficient Licensing/ Discretionary days process – to ensure sessions are still safe to run, and access discretionary funding when available. This can be for consecutive days, and centres should clarify why the qualified people are away on the forms.  If centres have used all their discretionary days, they will still need to follow the process if they wish to run sessions on those days.

At this stage, the decision to close the centre for a period is up to the centre members, and should be made via the centre’s usual consultation processes. If the centre decides to close for a period of time they need to contact their Centre Admin, CSW and regional office asap to advise them of this decision.



Impact on Bulkfunding

Impact on Centre-paid staff

Centre chooses to close – either due to lack of personnel or as a preventative measure.

Centre will receive no bulkfunding for the period they are closed

Centre will need to continue to pay usual wage costs for any centre-paid staff during this period

Medical Officer of Health closes centre

Emergency Funding likely to be granted (although decision is up to MoE)

Centre will need to continue to pay usual wage costs for any centre-paid staff during this period

Ministry of Education/ Govt order centres to close

It is likely that there would be some type of funding package in this scenario, but we do not know what that might be at this time

Centre will need to continue to pay usual wage costs for any centre-paid staff during this period. There may be some wage subsidies from the government, but this is unknown at this time.


The Ministry of Education have developed specific guidance for parents to assist them when talking to their children about coronavirus.
You will appreciate the importance of giving children factual, age-appropriate information about COVID-19 so that they can feel informed and in control. The guidance will support parents to have those conversations – Talking to children about coronavirus
You may also have seen two very useful videos you could share with your parent community to help both parents and children better understand the virus:

  • Nanogirl video clip with a great explanation for kids about coronavirus



Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza. Having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing.

Preventing the risk 

You can take some simple steps to help stop the spread of diseases like COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly: 
    • before eating or handling food
    • after using the toilet
    • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
    • after caring for sick people.
  • Try to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Go to the Ministry of Health website for more information about preventing the risk:

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) guidance – Ministry of Health

What to do if you’re concerned

If you have the symptoms and have recently been to a country or area of concern, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, please call Healthline’s COVID-19 line, with translators and interpreters available 24/7 in 150 languages:

If you intend to visit your GP or after-hours medical centre, phone ahead to let them know.

More health advice and virus prevention information is available on the Ministry of Health website:

COVID-19 health advice for the public – Ministry of Health


If you are unwell, you should stay away from your centre or place of work in order to avoid passing illnesses on. Please contact your manager as soon as possible.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, please contact your manager as soon as possible so that we can work with any affected centres and the Public Health Service to put in place any necessary measures to mitigate the spread.

If you need to stay away from work due to:

  • Needing to be self-isolating for 14 days following overseas travel or contact with a known case
  • Due to contracting the virus and needing to be away during recovery
  • the Playcentre you work in being required to close by a Medical Officer of Health

you will be able to use any sick leave or annual leave that you have available.

If you do not have sick or annual leave remaining, we may consider special paid leave for the balance of any required isolation period. This request would need to be made by your manager to the General Manager.


There has been a lot of talk about pandemic planning.

For Playcentres, the initial prevention stages of the pandemic planning are as above – using cleaning, hygiene and common sense to minimise the chances of infection and contain any cases.

Our regional and national offices are preparing for the possibility of being required to work from home. For most office-based roles this will be possible and managers will discuss with individual employees if necessary.

If there is an outbreak of the pandemic within your area, then it is highly likely that centres will be required to close.  In this situation parents will need to keep their children at home. This decision would usually be made by Ministry of Health officials.  If your centre is forced to close, the Regional office will contact Ministry of Education as soon as possible to request Emergency funding.

  • Centres need to consider if their centre is going to be closed for an extended period of time, what would need to happen to ensure the centre is secure during that time:
    • Turn off unnecessary plugs and switches
    • Empty kettles or other bodies of water
    • Remove any food that may spoil
    • Ensure that there is a plan for any centre pets/fish (to be taken home by a family, or one person designated to come in and feed them)
    • One or two people designated to check in every few days to ensure centre is still secure.
    • Using online systems to ensure the basic monthly bills continue to be paid.
    • Put a sign on the door to advise that the centre is closed, with a phone number of who to contact for enquiries.


  • Also consider how to stay in touch with your members during the time the centre is closed – this may be via a Facebook page or other social media, a group email, skype/zoom catch up or using a phone tree to check in with each other every so often. Keeping in touch with your Playcentre community will help in dealing with potential stress and isolation during this difficult time.
  • Designate a key contact person to liaise with centre members, regional office, and where necessary Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health. This may be your President, Centre Health and Safety Officer, Privacy Officer or another reliable member.


We recommend regularly checking the Ministry of Education website, as it updates information and advice for the education sector and the Ministry of Health website for ongoing advice regarding COVID-19 and its progression within New Zealand.