Schools, childcare open for all at level 2

All children will be allowed to return to schools and early childcare centres - possibly from Monday May 18 - when the country moves down to alert level 2.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed parents will no longer be encouraged to keep children at home if they can, as they were during the level 4 lockdown and under level 3 restrictions since last week.

Classes will resume for senior high school students in Years 11 to 13, who all had to stay home in level 3, and tertiary education institutions will reopen.

However, online and other forms of distance education will still be available for children who need to stay home because either they or members of their household are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to age or health conditions.

Ardern said schools would not open mid-week even if level 2 is adopted for other sectors two days after a Cabinet decision, possibly this coming Monday.

"When the decision is made, they will open at the beginning of the following week," she said.

That means the earliest schools and early learning centres might be opened to everyone is Monday May 18.

Ardern said the official advice remains to keep students 1 metre apart indoors and 2 metres apart outside, but she accepted that this would not always be practical.

"We do, however, know that it's near-impossible in the early learning environment, and very challenging in schools, so staying home if you're sick, hygiene protocols and regular cleaning become even more important," she said.

"On the advice of public health officials, any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of Covid-19 must close on an individual or group basis to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days," the Government's Covid-19 website says.

"Early learning services and schools are safe environments for children, young people and staff. Additional public health control measures are in place to prevent the spread of disease and to support contact tracing," the website says.

"Tertiary education is a safe environment for students and staff to return to at alert level 2.

"Tertiary education facilities will implement public health requirements and physical distancing as appropriate for the context, and will work closely to ensure a safe environment where students can continue their learning. They will need to maintain distance learning capability to help manage within these constraints, and ensure safety of staff and students at risk of Covid-19.

"Workplace-based learning will be conducted within the specific rules applicable to the relevant industry."

The announcement has fleshed out the high-level statement in the original chart of the four alert levels that schools and early learning centres "are open for all children" at level 2.

"Distance learning is available for those unable to attend school (e.g. self-isolating)," the chart said.

"Tertiary education facilities open, with arrangements made for vulnerable students
for distance learning.

"Any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of Covid-19 must close on an individual or group basis for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days."

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