21 Apr 2020

Dr Ashley Bloomfield takes public questions in live Q+A

4:48 pm on 21 April 2020

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Education Secretary Iona Holsted held a live question and answer session on Facebook to talk about health and education.

Watch the Q+A here:

Holsted and Dr Bloomfield are the heads of the ministries of education and health, respectively.

Dr Bloomfield said in alert level 3 only those students who really needed to be should be in school.

For the majority and the older students, they should continue distance learning.

Holsted said the first choice was for parents to supervise and keep their children at home and maintain distance learning.

"We are aiming to have as few children in schools and early learning services as we can," she said.

Parks and school playgrounds will not be open in alert level 3.

Holsted said it was unlikely students would move rooms for different classes, so as to minimise contact.

"It's not going to be school as we know it.

"We're talking bubbles of 10 including the teacher," she said.

"In the event that there are insufficient adults for the numbers of children, then the ministry will work with you to reorganise how those children's needs might be met."

That might include inviting teachers from other schools or bringing in relievers.

"Principals and teachers will be an important part of that planning."

The ministry was also working to ensure ECEs were safe to open, she said.

"There are a number of ECEs that will be open. At this stage, we have guaranteed funding for a period of time to ECEs. We know a number will be coming under pressure in due course. We're wanting you to be able to open so we need you to feel safe and we will continue to work with you to give you that confidence."

Bloomfield said parents needed to be strict about maintaining their bubble at home and keeping good hygiene.

He said some people presented mild symptoms, hence those with any kind of respiratory symptoms shouldn't enter schools or early childhood centres.

"So anything from a cold, head cold, sneezing, a sore throat and blocked ears through to a cough and those classic flu symptoms like fever," he said.

Bloomfield said staffrooms were one of the highest-risk settings for teachers.

There were measures to get the flu jab to essential workers; it didn't protect against Covid-19 but it did help against influenza, he said.

There is still no vaccine for Covid-19.

At a media briefing this afternoon, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said most children would continue distance learning under alert level 3.

The government yesterday said schools and early learning centres could reopen on 29 April for children who could not learn from home or whose parents would be resuming work.

The country would move to alert level 3 at 11.59pm on 27 April. It would remain in level 3 for at least alert two weeks before being reviewed again on 11 May.

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