2 Mar 2020

Advice for schools: 'Be alert but don't be alarmed'

1:03 pm on 2 March 2020

A Ministry of Education official says schools in New Zealand are well prepared in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.

High school students

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Deputy secretary of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, told Morning Report that the risk of a community outbreak is still low.

Schools in New Zealand have been issued with advice on how to deal with a potential outbreak of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Education sent out guidelines to principals around the country on Friday - telling them what to do if they have an infected student.

The advice included tracing the infection, notifying the community and possibly closing the school.

Casey said parents don't have to panic, and basic hygiene and cleanliness are the most important.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

"Right now, our key message is be alert but don't be alarmed ... the chances of a community outbreak remain low, but we are conscious the situation could evolve and move reasonably quickly."

Casey said schools have experience in handling epidemics and have recently had to handle the measles outbreak which is much more contagious and infectious than Covid-19.

"Everybody needs to stay calm and plan their way through this. Until we know what kind of situation we might be dealing with, people just need to carry on."

She said the instructions handed to schools can help them get prepared for a potential outbreak.

At this stage, she said if a school had an infected student, it wouldn't necessarily close for two weeks.

"The focus at the moment is on trace and contain. If a child is infected, who they've had contact with and when."

She said the Ministry of Health would take the lead on that scenario.

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