Tertiary and international COVID-19 bulletin
24 February 2022
Tertiary and international COVID-19 bulletin
COVID-19 Protection Framework settings
All of New Zealand is at Red.
Moving to Phase 3
New Zealand will move to Phase 3 of the Omicron Response at 11.59pm Thursday 24 February as announced earlier today by the Minister for COVID-19 Response, the Hon Chris Hipkins.
This bulletin sets out key information on what Phase 3 will mean for the tertiary sector.
Things are moving rapidly, and the tertiary toolkit and guidance for managing self-isolation in tertiary accommodation have not yet been updated.
In the meantime, you can rely on what is set out in this bulletin.
The Ministry of Health has provided the detail for ‘Managing COVID-19 under Phase 3 within the tertiary sector’ and we are working with the Ministry to update our more detailed guidance and hope to release this soon.
Note that in Phase 3 only household contacts of a case must isolate. All other contacts should continue to monitor for symptoms. If any arise, they should stay home and get a test.
If you need any clarification, please contact COVID19.TertiaryandInternational@education.govt.nz.
Managing COVID-19 under Phase 3 within the tertiary sector
There is now widespread community transmission of Omicron in Aotearoa New Zealand.
As a result, COVID-19 cases in tertiary education and accommodation facilities are increasing rapidly, as well as across the community. The requirements to self-isolate are having significant effects on the tertiary education sector and the learning experience of individual cases and contacts, as well as wider society.
Phase 3 approach to contact tracing
In considering the risk of transmission in the tertiary sector, along with the current public health measures in place and the wider context of the Omicron Strategy, a reduced model for contact tracing for tertiary providers will be adopted.
In Phase 3, the tertiary sector will need to rely on their community to manage their risk and the risk to those around them. There is no longer a requirement for tertiary providers to undertake close contact identification when there is a case in their community. However, they may choose to do so using the guidance that has already been provided.
While there is no legal requirement for close contacts to isolate during Phase 3 of the Omicron Strategy, tertiary education settings should still do their best to mitigate risk to other students or staff members as much as possible.
Key actions for education settings
- As in earlier phases of the Omicron response, the way that tertiary education providers will find out that there has been a positive case in their setting, is if the positive case tells them they have been on site during their infectious period. A key change is that public health units and the National Case Investigation Service will not formally notify tertiary education providers when a case has been there during their infectious period.
- The main action for providers is to communicate with their community that there have been positive cases in the setting, and to provide general advice to those that may be at higher risk of disease.
- Providers may also choose to undertake some close contact identification, particularly if they are aware of any higher-risk situations within their community. The existing guidance can be used to undertake a risk assessment and identify close contacts.
- This risk assessment can include discussions within the provider about particularly high-risk exposures, areas of concern or staff or students who are at risk of severe disease.
- If close contacts have been identified, providers can advise them in line with Phase 3 advice for close contacts (monitor for symptoms for 10 days). Individuals and their communities can then make decisions based on their circumstances.
- If providers do choose to undertake any Close Contact identification, the existing guidance on contact categorisation in the tertiary toolkit can be used.
Key Information for cases and contacts in Phase 3
If you have COVID-19
If you are a household contact
If you are a close contact (outside of the household)
In addition to these guidelines, stay home if you're feeling unwell. If cases remain unwell, they should seek additional health advice.
For more information about what to do if you are a case or contact and for information about the support available in the different phases, please visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
Other key points for Phase 3
- Locations of interests will no longer be published.
- Scanning in using the COVID Tracer App will continue to be important as it will be a digital diary for a case to remember where they have been and advise any people they may have been with or places they may have been.
- Bluetooth notifications will still be used.
Transitional arrangements for close contacts isolating prior to 25 February
People who are currently self-isolating as close contacts and are not household contacts can stop isolating and return to onsite activities from tomorrow Friday 25 February if they are asymptomatic.
They are not required to produce a negative test result.
Identifying household close contacts within tertiary accommodation
There may already be confirmed COVID-19 cases (referred to as a confirmed case) self-isolating within your tertiary accommodation.
We acknowledge that there are many different kinds of tertiary accommodation, and that determining who a case’s household hontacts are will differ case by case.
We are working with the Ministry of Health to get updated guidance to you. In the meantime, tertiary providers and accommodation providers should work together with the confirmed case to identify who within their facility are considered household contacts.
Not all residents who shared a bathroom or kitchen facility with a confirmed case would necessarily be considered a household contact at Phase 3. It will depend on their interactions with the confirmed case and whether the case was wearing a mask at that time.
Household contacts could include:
- roommates who sleep in the same room as the case in a hall of residence
- students who live in a ‘flatlet’-type arrangement with separate bedrooms but have shared living spaces with the case.
Hardship fund for learners still available
The hardship fund for learners (HAFL) is still available with funding that runs until the end of June 2022.
The HAFL helps tertiary education organisations (TEOs) provide temporary financial assistance for currently enrolled tertiary learners facing ongoing hardship due to COVID-19. TEOs should consider their learner’s hardship needs and apply for this funding if appropriate.
The funding can be used to cover learner’s essential and ancillary living costs (such as food, utilities, rent, university accommodation, medical fees, transport and clothing) and technology support (such as hardware support, internet connection and software subscriptions).
The allocation of the funding is through an application-based process that assesses how the TEO identifies learners most in need. This ensures funding is prioritised to support these learners.
Applications remain open and can be downloaded on the Tertiary Education Commission's funding and payments page.
Completed applications should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: [Your Edumis] – Hardship fund application.
Verification of learner identity and extramural delivery update
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has updated its FAQs on verification of learner identity and extramural delivery for student achievement component (SAC), youth guarantee (YG), adult and community education (ACE) and literacy funds.
TEOs can now use digital methods to verify a learner’s identity document under all settings. In response to COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face teaching, the TEC allows providers to deliver SAC, YG, ACE and literacy fund education and training online to unvaccinated learners.
For more information, visit TEC's website.
Be prepared for COVID-19
Whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, everyone should prepare for what they need to do if they get COVID-19.
The Unite against COVID-19 website has resources to help you.
Travelling and COVID-19
While vaccination is highly effective, it is still possible to get COVID-19.
You may get it while you are away from home, even if you are following the rules. You should prepare for what you may need to do if this happens.
Travel at Red – Unite against COVID-19
Email address for queries
All tertiary and international COVID-19 related queries can be emailed to us through our central mailbox COVID19.TertiaryandInternational@education.govt.nz.