Covid-19 information for parents and whānau

All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 2, with additional gathering restrictions for Auckland.

Returning to school

We understand you may have concerns but it is important children return to school because:

  • it’s safe for children to go back to school and it’s the best place for them
  • it keeps them engaged in learning
  • it’s fun and provides an important emotional and support network for them, with their friends and classmates
  • it gives them direct contact with their teachers.

Face coverings from Monday 31 August

There is evidence that the use of masks and face coverings can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.  Face coverings are effective if there is a risk of undetected community transmission, where people are close to each other, or where physical distancing is not possible.

The advice for education is:

  • Children and young people will not be required to wear face coverings at early learning service or school. However, if you and your child wish to wear face coverings, you may do so.
  • If your child is 12 years and above, and travels to school on public transport (train, bus or ferry) they must wear a face covering. For example, a mask, scarf or bandana.
  • If your child or young person travels to school on school transport they do not have to wear a face covering.

Children are not required to wear face coverings on school transport because they have good systems in place to identify contacts.  Vehicles are sanitised after each school run and drivers have been asked to wear face masks.

Note, there are general exemptions for some users of public transport such as people with certain health or medical conditions.

Read the FAQs on face covering

Transcript: How to make a facemask in under 10 seconds (Dr Michelle Dickinson) 

(Video courtesy of Dr Michelle Dickinson)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, scientists are learning more and more about the virus.

And one of the areas that we now have much more information on is the effectiveness of face masks

How do we know this?

Actually because of hamsters. So while we have human studies showing how the virus seems to spread less in mask wearers in densely populated workplaces like meatworks, more controlled studies have looked at hamsters.

No, they didn't make the hamster wear a tiny weeny mask but instead they placed the mask fabric on the side of their cages and found that it reduced airborne transmission of the virus by over 60 percent.

One of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads is through respiratory droplets. This is moisture that comes from your nose and your lungs. Even talking can produce thousands of potentially infected droplets that move through the air and can land on surfaces that other people might touch.

Here, take a look at some high speed footage of me sneezing.



Covering your mouth and nose with a mask is a really cheap and simple way to reduce the amount of droplets that you are expelling and also from inhaling other people's droplets that will reduce your risk of being infected and potentially infecting others.

While N95 respirators and surgical masks are the most effective, they're also in short supply and needed by healthcare workers who are at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

While not as effective as the medical grade products, if you are in a pinch a simple face mask can be made up in a few seconds using things you already have around the house and they will provide you with some protection if you need to go out.

The best thing about this design is that you can easily tweak the size and it is simple enough that even your children can make their own.

So let's start with a handkerchief. A study published in the journal Science

Advances found that when making your own mask, cotton fabric is the best and protects you much more than fleecy materials.

If you don't have a handkerchief you can cut up an old cotton t-shirt or even just use a pillow case. You will also need two ear loops, I'm using hair ties but you can use elastic bands or even just knot some string or ribbon into loops.

So take the handkerchief and fold it from the top inwards and then from the bottom inward.

A study in the journal Thorax found that cloth masks should be at least two layers of fabric thick. I'm making mine three.

Next, loop your hair ties or elastic bands over the ends, fold the outer edges inwards. Pick up using the bands then loop over each ear, one at a time.

And there you go, a simple and comfortable and effective face mask to wear when you are going out in public in areas of COVID-19 community transmission.

It’s also timely reminder to remember the rest of the golden rules to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The golden rules

Here is a checklist to help you get ready.

Checklist for parents to prepare for Alert Level 2

The information below will remind you about the important things to do as we deal with COVID-19.

Early learning services and schools, including in Auckland, are open and safe to attend at Alert Level 2

Under Alert Level 2 schools and early learning services are safe to attend. They have public health measures in place including hygiene and regular cleaning of high touch surfaces and equipment. School gatherings such as sporting events, school balls, field trips and school plays may be subject to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, please check with your school before attending.

If you have questions, please contact your early learning service or school as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

Your child’s wellbeing will be the top priority.  We know that your child needs to feel comfortable and safe for learning to happen. Your early learning service, school or kura, as well as the Ministry of Education, will be doing all we can to support you and your children at this time.

Wellbeing tips

Additional support for NCEA students

Because of the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community, additional support was announced for senior secondary students, including further changes to NCEA. - Additional support for NCEA students due to continuing COVID disruption

These additional supports and changes recognise that most students in Auckland have lost 13 days of classroom-based learning during August. However, there may be a small number of other circumstances where these could be appropriately applied.

The following applies to young people in Auckland in the first instance:

  • Fewer credits to achieve NCEA:
    • 66 credits for those working towards NCEA Level 1
    • 48 credits for those working towards NCEA Levels 2 or 3
  • 2 fewer credits to achieve NCEA with Merit or Excellence
  • Extra places in programmes led by Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) from Term 4. These places will be available for young people who have stopped attending school during the pandemic or need extra support to achieve their NCEA goals this year.
  • Extra places will also be available in Te Kura’s summer school for young people who need up to 10 additional credits to attain an NCEA or University Entrance award.

This latest announcement builds on the changes to NCEA and University Entrance for the 2020 school year that were announced earlier:

The wellbeing of students is a top priority. And if there are more disruptions to learning from COVID-19 there may be further changes to support your young person.

Please talk to your school if you have any questions.

Learning support

If you have questions about learning support for your child, please call 0800 622 222.

Talanoa Ako – support for Pacific parents

Talanoa Ako is a Pacific parent education programme that aims to equip and empower parents, families and communities with skills, knowledge and confidence to champion their children’s education.

  • Talanoa Ako Radio sessions that previously aired and livestreamed from April to June on 531pi and PMN is now available in English and 7 Pacific Languages (Cook Island, Niue, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu and Tokelau) can now be viewed on our Pacific Communities Learning From home page Pacific Communities Learning From home page
  • Talanoa Ako digital app is an additional tool to refresh learning from the radio programme and continue to build on it. This app is free to download for Apple and Android phones and tablets:

Download the Talanoa Ako app – App Store

Download the Talanoa Ako app – Google Play Store

Here are tips to support your children’s learning and wellbeing, available in 10 Pacific languages: 

Learning tips in 10 Pacific languages

Wellbeing tips in 10 Pacific languages 

If your child is in tertiary education

More information and advice for tertiary students is available on the Ministry of Education website:

Advice for tertiary students – Ministry of Education 

Wellbeing tips

It can be scary hearing about COVID-19 and what’s happening around the world. Your children will continue to look to you for guidance and support. We have developed three age-appropriate tip sheets to help you talk with your children and work through common challenges and behaviours that might have changed during COVID-19.

The links below also contain great ideas and resources to help families and whānau look after their wellbeing.

Behaviour support specialists

If you usually receive disability support services at your early learning service or school, the Ministry of Health has engaged Explore to provide access to behaviour support services during the COVID-19 response. Explore’s Behaviour Support Specialists can:

  • Provide immediate wellbeing and support
  • Suggest ways to respond to any challenging behaviours
  • Discuss risks and safety planning
  • Provide other tools and resources. 

You, your whānau or support worker can call 0800 000 421 from 9am to 5pm to access their services. You do not need a referral from your Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC) agency to access these services, but you will be asked to identify your NASC agency. 

Explore focuses on the wellbeing of whānau and caregivers, and has expertise and experience in delivering practical advice and support to whānau, children, adults, support workers and organisations. They are also setting up webinars around a range of topics of concern and creating access to resources and materials to support this work.

You can find more information about this service at the Ministry of Health website. 

Behaviour support services

Children with disabilities

Awhi@home is a parent-led Facebook page supported by IHC and partners including the Ministry of Education and Explore services. It provides support for parents with disabled children and posts include tools, resources and videos addressing common challenges. 

The page aims to help you, as a parent of a disabled child, by providing strategies and tips, links to useful resources, information on COVID-19 and one-on-one support as needed:

Go to Awhi@home on Facebook

The golden rules

It’s a timely reminder to remember the golden rules to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Good hygiene practice everywhere is key – wash and dry your hands often, cough or sneeze in to your elbow and clean surfaces regularly.
  • Maintain appropriate physical distance where possible.
  • Record your whereabouts to help with contact tracing if needed. You can use the COVID tracer app if you can, or make a personal note. 

Ministry of Health – Download the COVID tracer app

  • Stay home if you’re sick. If you have cold or flu like symptoms call your doctor or the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 and check if you need to be tested. Testing is free.

Read the transcript: Moist Breath Zone (Shirley Serban) 

*Video courtesy of Shirley Serban -

[Song begins]


We’re back at school, it’s really cool
To all be here together

We made it through and I missed you

The country’s getting better

But sorry, no high five or hug

Let’s wait a little longer

Till we can beat that Covid bug

Being careful makes us stronger


I’m glad to see you but please leave me alone

If you need to cough, use your elbow

When you’re feeling sick – you gotta stay at home

And stay out of my moist breath zone!


I’ll share my news, but my food’s for me alone

If I smell your breath, I will go sit on my own

Always wash your hands – make them soapy, full of foam

And stay out of my moist breath zone!


If I can smell the tuna bake

You had for tea last night

Then I’m way too close to your face

I’ll move to make it right


I like to hear you sing a song

But I don’t like your spit

So be a good sport – keep us strong

By moving back a bit!


I’m glad to see you but please leave me alone

If you need to cough, use your elbow

When you’re feeling sick – you gotta stay at home

And stay out of my moist breath zone!


I’ll share my news, but my food’s for me alone

If I smell your breath, I will go sit on my own

Always wash your hands – make them soapy, full of foam

And stay out of my moist breath zone!


I like to tackle and play rough

Outside when it’s break time

But now that’s not quite safe enough

Don’t touch and we’ll be fine


I know you love my company

But I need my own space

You’re not my shadow, stuck to me

Please get out of my face!


I’m glad to see you but please leave me alone

If you need to cough, use your elbow

When you’re feeling sick – you gotta stay at home

And stay out of my moist breath zone!


I’ll share my news, but my food’s for me alone

If I smell your breath, I will go sit on my own

Always wash your hands – make them soapy, full of foam

And stay out of my moist breath zone!

Just stay out of my moist breath zone!

[Song ends]

[Text appears on video]

“Covid’s not measles or chickenpox, it doesn’t hand in the air for hours waiting to infect passers-by. It travels on invisible drops of spit. You don’t have to cross the street to avoid anyone. Just avoid getting in their ‘moist breath’ zone.” – Dr Gary Payinda, NZ Herald 1 May 2020

Read the transcript: How to wash your hands NHS song (National Health Service)

*Video courtesy of UK NHS -

This video helps make the proper hand-washing technique more memorable for little hands.

So wet those hands and apply some soap!

It’s time for my big song!

[Singing begins]

Rub the palms – one two

Rub the knuckles – one two

Rub the insides of your fingers and the back of them too

Rub the thumbs – one two

And the nails – one two

Now time to rinse

Happy clean hands for you!

[Singing ends] 

More information

Your school, kura or early learning will be your first point of call if you have questions or concerns.

Our regional staff continue to support individual schools and centres. This page, the Government COVID-19 website and our education website are constantly updated with the latest information, please make sure to check them:

Government COVID-19 website

Ministry of Education COVID-19 page

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