Early learning at Alert Level 2

Published on Tuesday, 02 June 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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NZ will be staying at Alert Level 2 until the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, is confident COVID-19 has been eliminated.

In a recent interview with Stuff, public health expert Professor Michael Baker said that from an epidemiological point of view 28 days with no evidence of new cases would provide a “high level of certainty’ the virus had been eradicated. 

While there is no time frame for moving into level 1, restrictions within level 2 are being reviewed on a fortnightly basis, and additional activities are being permitted if the data demonstrates low chances of further outbreaks of the virus.  

According to the Ministry of Education at level 2 most children can attend their early learning schools and kura, the exceptions being children who are sick, those who have symptoms of COVID-19, or who are in isolation or waiting on a test result.

 At Level 2 early learning services, playgroups, playcenters, OSCAR and before and after school programmes are safe to open, as long as the public health measures outlined below are implemented and adhered to by staff, whanau, families and children.

  • Parents should keep any sick children at home. If a sick child comes to the service, or shows symptoms, services will send them home.
  • Indoor temperature needs to be set at a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius. This minimum must be met.
  • Young children require a lot of physical support and it is not possible to explain or maintain a physical distance between young children given the age of the children and set up of centres. This means good hygiene practices are even more important. There does not need to be a measurable physical distance between children or children and staff.  Where possible, adults should keep 1 metre distance between themselves.
  • Ensure all children regularly wash and dry their hands.
  • Ensure hand sanitiser is available but ensure teachers/staff supervise its location and use to avoid a child accidentally drinking it.
  • Ensure that children have their own food containers and do not share food with each other. Food can be supplied in accordance with public health guidance.
  • Outdoor play areas can be used, including sandpits, but children must wash their hands after use.
  • Disinfect and clean all surfaces daily.
  • Contact tracing registers must be in place.

Note that PPE is not recommended by Public Health as necessary in early childhood settings and 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, to monitor for further outbreaks.

What about parents and caregivers at Level 2?

Parents and care givers are permitted to be on site at level 2 however, physical distancing of 2 metres is recommended. Early learning services already have contact details for parents, carers and whanau so it’s not necessary to record these separately, however, you will need to record their name, time in and out and which rooms they entered.  Visitors who are not parents should record their contact details, so they can be located in the event of an outbreak. 

It’s important to note that downloading and using the NZ COVID Tracer app does not negate the need for early learning service to maintain a register of visitors, at this time, however, this situation may change, reducing the administrative load for services. 

What cleaning is required at Level 2?

The only requirement specific to Alert Level 2 is to clean and disinfect surfaces once each day. This requirement is particularly focused towards high-touch surfaces such as door handles, bathroom taps, handrails, etc. If surfaces look visibly dirty, they should be cleaned first. It’s best to use a disinfectant that is antiviral and follow instructions. A bleach/water solution will be appropriate for most surfaces.
There is no requirement to clean surfaces between uses by different groups, or to clean playground equipment. However, washing hands before and after using shared equipment including playground equipment remains a priority.

With restrictions being lifted every two weeks, it may be helpful to check the Ministry of Education website on COVID-19 to ensure you are up to date with the latest changes.

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