Stronger COVID protections needed in schools

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party is calling on the Government to introduce stronger measures in schools and early education centres to ensure children and their whānau are not put at greater risk from a change to COVID-19 protections.

“When case numbers that seemed impossible a couple of years ago are now happening daily, it’s vital that we do everything possible to keep our children and the communities around them safe,” says Teanau Tuiono, the Green Party’s spokesperson for COVID-19 and schools.

“This means seeing our tamariki as the heart of our whānau, and making sure their wellbeing is protected, whether at school or at home.”

The Green Party is calling on the Government to:

  • Rollout a school-based vaccination programme
  • Work alongside Māori and Pacific leadership to achieve high equity in vaccine coverage.
  • Provide free N95 masks or equivalents to every school – to teachers and students
  • Expand the use of masks down to year one
  • Introduce a test to stay system
  • Improve ventilation and provide greater support for online learning for whānau isolating

“COVID-19 protection measures have played a vital role keeping us all safe.

“But as the Government signals its intention to remove at least some of these measures, it must also plan for the future. Not only to get our tamariki through the current outbreak, but to prepare for any new variants or a second wave of Omicron cases.

“Too many of our children, their teachers, and their whānau have already been exposed to Omicron. We need to fix the gaps in the layers of protection, not strip things back further. This is especially important for the under 5s who cannot be vaccinated, and for immunocompromised children and those with underlying health conditions” .

“And it will be Māori and Pacific children who will be at the greatest risk. Not only are vaccination rates lower, Māori and Pacific communities also experience greater barriers to supportive health care.

“Whatever the Government announces on Wednesday, a return to business as usual is simply not an option. Ministers need to make sure our schools have everything they need to keep children well,” says Teanau Tuiono.

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