Unvaccinated students can participate in school activities as part of phase 3


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.

About 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 to require 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 issue of 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.

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 were 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 nationwide.

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.

Rising case numbers, pressures on testing stations and the number of people needing to self-isolate today announced a move to Phase 3 of the Omicron response, 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.

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