Students in classes 1-10 in New Zealand’s Auckland city and the Waikato region can return to in-person leadering in schools from November 17, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“Lockdowns can be stressful for children and young people, so returning to some on-site learning will mean they can reconnect with their teachers and friends,” Hipkins told a press conference.
This will provide certainty ahead of the Christmas break and before the new school year starts, Xinhua news agency quoted the Minister as saying.
Measures to help minimise the risk of Covid transmission will include mandatory wearing of masks from class 4 up in most cases, ventilating classrooms, limiting the number of students on site, and maintaining distance from each other among groups of children, Hipkins said.
Each school will decide what works best for their learners and their community. That might be by alternating days or half weeks, he said.
“It is clear that the risk of reopening schools is outweighed by the benefits of kids re-engaging with their learning face-to-face in this context,” the Minister said.
“With really strong vaccination rates, the balance of risk has shifted,” he said, adding as vaccinations rates increase, including the requirement for teachers to have at least one Covid-19 vaccination from November 15, the risk to children and students is lowered.
Auckland, the country’s largest city, and the nearby Waikato region have been the centre of New Zealand’s latest community outbreak of Covid-19 fuelled by the Delta variant since mid-August.
The country reported 147 new Delta variant cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 7,922, while the death toll stood at 32.
Among the new infections, 131 were recorded in Auckland, 14 in Waikato and two in Northland, according to the Ministry of Health.
On Wednesday, Auckland opened shops and allowed outside gatherings up to 25 people in further easing of restrictions.