You may have seen that the World Health Organisation has now declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
As noted by the Minister of Health, this does not change what New Zealand is doing to respond to coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health has been working through its pandemic plan since January and the Government has already implemented a range of measures to minimise the impacts to New Zealand. This includes border restrictions, a requirement to self-isolate on arrival in New Zealand from China, Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea and immediate and detailed contact tracing of any confirmed cases.
We have five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand and it is pleasing to know that all are doing well and are at home. Their children, four students at Auckland schools, continue to be well and show no symptoms. While we expect that more cases will arise, the Ministry of Health says that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low in New Zealand.
It is interesting to note that research published by the World Health Organisation states that children and young people under 18 account for only 2.4% of all reported cases of COVID-19. This means we are unlikely to see widespread cases in schools and early learning services in New Zealand.
Southern Health School remains well prepared for the possibility that there might be a case in our community. If that were to occur, we are confident we can put our plans in place and know we will be supported by regional health authorities and the Ministry of Education.
One other action we can all take is to be vigilant about our own health and the health of our children. I will be encouraging my staff to stay away from school if they are showing signs of illness such as coughs and colds. I ask that you please do the same with your children. Colds and flus are common in schools and by staying away, seeking medical attention and practicing good hygiene, we can all keep any spread of illness to a minimum.