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 doesn’t change what New Zealand is doing to respond to coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health has been working through its pandemic plan since January. You will also know 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. It is important to note that those four countries account for more than 90% of cases globally and China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining numbers of new cases.

We have 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand and it is pleasing to know they are all 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. We all have a role to play in this.

For our school, our pandemic plan is also ready to be implemented if needed. In the meantime we will continue to focus on good hygiene practices. Hand washing and good cough etiquette are very important tools in preventing the spread of illness including colds, flu and COVID-19.

With that, there is a good video clip from Nanogirl that will help your children to better understand the virus - YouTube clip - Nanogirl

You may have also seen the Prime Minister sat down with Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Juliet Gerrard, to talk about coronavirus:

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.

One other action we can all take is to be vigilant about our own health and the health of our children. We are encouraging 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.

Although cases of Coronavirus within New Zealand have now been confirmed, the Ministry of Health has said that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak remains low. Should the situation change, Wellington East Girls’ College will follow our pandemic plan for managing the illness, as we would with other infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and influenza.

Everybody should continue to follow the basic principles of hygiene and cough etiquette to reduce the risk of getting an acute respiratory infection or passing it onto others. This includes:

  • Regularly washing hands (for at least 20 seconds) with warm water and soap and drying thoroughly. You should do this before and after eating as well as after using the toilet
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with clean tissues or your elbow
  • Putting used tissues in the bin
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
  • If you feel unwell you should stay away from school and avoid public gatherings and events