8 Feb 2022

PM says closing schools will be last resort, as 24 are connected to cases

5:38 pm on 8 February 2022

At least 14 schools and 10 early learning services have connections to Covid-19 cases, but the prime minister says schools will only be closed as a last resort.

Back to school.

Photo: 123RF

The Education Ministry said that as of 11.30am today 14 schools and 10 early learning services have links to Covid-19 cases.

It is not aware of any schools closing due to staff or students having the virus.

But Jacinda Ardern said the government will only close schools as a last resort where there are significant Omicron outbreaks, staff absences that make it unsafe to operate, or a local lockdown.

She made the commitment during her post-cabinet Prime Minister's statement at Parliament this afternoon, saying school closures can cause significant indirect harm to children, so would be considered very seriously before being enacted.

She said vaccination, good hygiene and maximising ventilation in schools are key to preventing potential transmission.

The schools and early childhood centres with connections to Covid-19 cases include nine Waikato schools, three in Bay of Plenty and one each in Auckland and Hawke's Bay.

The early childhood cases include three in Auckland, five in Bay of Plenty, one in Waikato and one in Nelson.

Some staff and students at Te Mata Primary School in Havelock North are isolating after four children at the kura were found to have Covid-19.

The Hawke's Bay District Health Board has reported eight cases in the region today, including the four from the kura that were announced yesterday. The other four cases in the community are linked to known clusters.

The DHB said it is working closely with the school alongside the Ministries of Health and Education, and a pop-up testing centre is operating today.

The school is still open for on-site learning for those not impacted, but close contacts are isolating with access to distance learning.

Medical officer of health Nick Jones is urging anyone with mild symptoms to act with caution and get tested immediately.

At Westlake Girls' High School on Auckland's North Shore a student has tested positive for Covid-19 after they were infectious while at school last week.

School spokesperson Christina Pollock said 25 students who are close contacts are isolating and awaiting test results but the school remains open on advice from the Ministry of Education.

She said the school has good protocols in place such as mask wearing, ventilation and scanning.

"We're really confident that we've got the processes and procedures in place... and we're getting really good support from the Ministry of Education."

Otago Polytechnic has cancelled its March graduation ceremonies due to public health concerns.

The ceremonies were scheduled for 10 and 11 March, in the Dunedin Town Hall.

All students will graduate in absentia, and all awarded titles can be used from 17 February.

The polytechnic said it's a disappointing but necessary decision to ensure the health and safety of graduates, their whānau, and the wider community.

All relevant students have been contacted via email.

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