The Green Party is calling for a Government COVID-19 Action Plan for schools, following expert advice about a possible winter COVID-19 peak.
“Where’s the plan? The Government needs to support schools and families so no one is left to muddle through winter by themselves,” says Teanau Tuiono, Green Party spokesperson for the COVID-19 response.
“Opening classroom windows as the outside temperatures plummet is not a good enough plan to keep children, young people, their teachers and whānau safe.
“We face a possible second COVID-19 peak over winter, at the same time as open borders bring new viruses into our communities. Communities need an expert-led plan to support children’s access to education, and protect children, school staff, and their families from COVID-19 and other winter respiratory infections.
“Our tamariki are growing and learning alongside severe threats to their wellbeing and that of their families.
“This generation is at risk of long-term harm to their health and wellbeing. We need a better approach as COVID-19 is still very much present in our communities. Now more than ever, with the risk of long COVID, we need to make sure support is equitable”
“Let’s not forget that as of last week we have now over 1000 COVID-19-related deaths. This pandemic is not over,” Teanau Tuiono says.
The plan should include:
- A stronger focus on indoor air quality - including ventilation, monitoring, and filtration. Relying on open windows is a stopgap measure and is insufficient for colder areas in winter.
- Require mask use in schools, in line with ‘red’ settings.
- Free N95s for teachers and students.
- Urgent steps to improve vaccine uptake against COVID-19 and the flu, and making sure kids are up to date with routine childhood vaccination - including catch up clinics in schools.
- Supporting staff and students to stay at home when they or their families are sick, with guaranteed sick leave for teachers until they are fully recovered.
- Supporting schools dealing with the impacts of long COVID and teacher shortages by increasing resourcing for relief teachers, and planning now for better teaching ratios long-term.
- Better planning to reduce transmission in schools while keeping them open as much as possible, for example, supporting large schools with timetabling changes that limit the risk of super-spreading.
- Clear and effective communication to parents - particularly on masks and vaccination.
- Ongoing reviews of the approach, so schools can learn from what’s going well and refine their plans if needed.