School children, unvaccinated or not, can now participate in all school activities, Chris Hipkins announced.
The minister for Covid-19 response said a week ago that Covid was in 1 in 10 schools, it is now in one in five.
Gathering limits will no longer apply to school activities such as sports when there are unvaccinated students.
40 million face masks are distributed. Teachers must wear medical masks, but children can use cloth masks. There will be relief supplies for children in schools, including smaller medical supplies, he said.
Portable air filters and CO2 monitors are also sent to check ventilation.
More than 700,000 rapid antigen tests can be distributed by the Department of Education if schools need them to maintain enrollment, Hipkins said.
It would only be in extreme circumstances that teachers would go to school under the critical worker program, using RATs instead of isolation. As if the school could not continue to function without them.
Hipkins said retailers may also be selling RATs very soon.
“Rapid antigen testing is not a guarantee, so we would only put someone in the school environment with this level of risk if we really had to.”
He said studies abroad have shown RATs can miss one in five cases.
It was too risky for schools, so schools would first have to try to find relief staff or take other steps to replace staff who had domestic cases of Covid-19.
When it comes to sports, Hipkins said he never wanted kids to be banned from playing sports if they weren’t vaccinated.
However, some schools interpreted practices such as kapa haka and other school activities as requiring a vaccination pass.
He said not all school activities would require a student vax pass. “We’re just clarifying those rules to be crystal clear.”
Regarding club sport for children, Hipkins said club sport is treated differently.
It was up to the clubs to provide an unvaccinated option for unvaccinated children.
“There is some hesitation to involve unvaccinated people in these activities, they are concerned that other people will not participate if there are unvaccinated people involved.”
However, he said, when it comes to school-organized activities, children should be able to participate fully in school activities whether they have been vaccinated or not.
He said the Prime Minister had signaled that restrictions would be eased after Omicron’s peak, so the problem with club sport could be resolved at this stage.
He said they wanted as many children and teachers on site as possible, but there would be situations where that was not possible.
Parents would be subject to the same rules, meaning unvaccinated parents could participate in activities organized by the school, but if he was not at school, the vaccination pass requirements would apply. would apply to them.
He said there may be more reminder advice for children in the future.
When tech experts advised giving kids reminders, they were ready to do it.
He said recall rates were high in the most vulnerable population – the elderly, but evidence regarding the impact recalls would have on infection and severity of Omicron in children was still emerging. ’emerge.
Blended learning, where some children were at home and others at school, was difficult and support would be provided in those situations, Hipkins said.
He said teachers were interested in having access to RATs, but not necessarily being able to go to school if they had a domestic case of Covid.
There were at least 5,000 air purifiers available for the winter period, when ventilation was more difficult.
The country has entered a new era in its response to Covid-19, with a shift to personal testing and reporting as the virus rages.
There was 6,137 new community cases of Covid-19 and one death reported yesterday – an 86 per cent increase from Wednesday’s number and not something New Zealand hasn’t seen nationally.
The ministry also announced that there were 205 people hospitalized, more than double the previous daily record of 93 during the peak of the Delta outbreak last year.
Importantly, there were only two people in intensive care, which experts attribute to high overall vaccination and ever-rising recall rates.
The increase in the number of cases, the pressures on testing stations and the number of people having to isolate themselves have heralded a shift to phase 3 of the Omicron response today, with reduced self-isolation requirements and a focus on rapid antigen testing (RAT) and self-reporting.
Now only confirmed cases and household contacts of a confirmed case will be required to self-isolate for 10 days.
A PCR test will also no longer be required to verify a positive RAT result – and RATs will be available nationwide from testing sites, GPs, pharmacies and workplaces. People will be able to self-report their positive results and notify their contacts.
RATs will be free for those who need them for testing and available for purchase for around $8-$10.
Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield says PCR tests have served us well and helped us understand the situation, but it was now at the stage where rapid antigen tests are the best option – given the high number of Covid cases in the community.
Moving into phase 3, Bloomfield said people would still want to know if they’ve contracted Covid because they want to keep their families safe.
The country already has “millions” of RATs in the country and 5 million more RAT tests are expected to arrive in the coming days, he told ZB’s Mike Hosking.
Bloomfield then said 10 million RATs were expected to arrive over the weekend.
Regarding people traveling in the country and still having to self-isolate, he said officials would look into this and seek guidance on this in the future.
When asked if the New Zealand public is too scared of the Omicron outbreak – compared to the rest of the world – Bloomfield acknowledged that the concern was still warranted.
Although the Omicron Covid variant is less severe than the Delta variant, people can and still will die, he said.
However, in terms of living with the virus now, Bloomfield said: “We are making a big change now.”
Changes to isolation requirements have raised questions about overseas arrivals into the country.
There were just eight cases detected at the border on Thursday – a figure that has been steadily falling since the 1950s in mid-January as countries around the world move away from their Omicron peaks.
Vaccinated Kiwis will be able to travel to New Zealand from Australia without having to travel to MIQ from 11:59 p.m. on Sunday February 27. However, they will still have to self-isolate for seven days, although they will also have to produce a negative pre-test.
This contrasts with the fact that people in New Zealand who have been in contact with positive cases of Covid-19 will no longer need to self-isolate.
The border will gradually open to the rest of the world in the coming months, but overseas travelers will also need to self-isolate at this point.
Hipkins said the government was reviewing self-isolation requirements for people entering the country and would make decisions next month.
Ann-Marie Johnson, from the Aotearoa Tourism Industry, said with the self-isolation requirements, New Zealand would ‘remain off the radar for high-value international holidaymakers’.
“Not many people will want to spend the first few days of their New Zealand holiday in self-isolation.
“The sooner we can signal intentions and timelines for reopening our air and sea borders without a requirement for self-isolation, the sooner tourism operators can get back to doing what they do best.”
Act party leader David Seymour also called for an end to MIQ for similar reasons. His party released a new Covid-19 policy on Thursday, which called for a dramatic reduction in restrictions, citing the higher contagiousness and lower virulence of the Omicron variant.
This involved people only self-isolating until they return a negative test result and end all vaccine requirements.
National Covid-19 Party spokesman Chris Bishop said the massive reliance on RATs had shown how unprepared the government was.
“Testing capacity in New Zealand is already overwhelmed. People trying to do the right thing and get tested are waiting in queues for hours and then up to seven days for results.
“New Zealand has a massive shortage of tests because the government didn’t order enough, soon enough.”
Responses to written parliamentary questions showed the government had only ordered 13.2 million tests at the end of 2021 and only started ordering in November.
“Meanwhile, everyone in England has been able to order 14 tests a week since April 2021,” Bishop said.
Covid-19 modeler Dr Dion O’Neale said changing RATs and the definitions of self-testing and close contact meant people could tell if they were infectious more quickly, but also meant that some cases could not be reported.
O’Neale said the government should carry out surveys of the prevalence of infection, similar to those in the UK, so as to determine wider levels of transmission.
Meanwhile, the protest site in Parliament has been flagged as a place of interest after the Department of Health reported at least two positive cases had arisen there.
All attendees on Saturday and Sunday were considered close contacts, but due to the move to Phase 3, self-isolation is no longer required.