tertiary and international covid-19 bulletin

Tertiary and international COVID-19 bulletin
27 January 2022

27 January 2022
tertiary and international covid-19 bulletin

Tertiary and international COVID-19 bulletin

27 January 2022

COVID-19 Protection Framework settings

As of 11:59pm on Sunday 23 January, all of New Zealand moved to the Red setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework due to confirmed Omicron cases in the community.  

Guidance and requirements for tertiary education at Red

All tertiary education and student accommodation providers must now operate at the Red setting of the traffic light system.

You can find guidance on how to operate at Red on our website:

Tertiary and international education at Red – Ministry of Education

Key points about tertiary education at Red

  • At Red, staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (unless exempt) to be onsite at tertiary providers. At this stage, staff do not need a booster dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
  • Students and visitors must also be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) and have a valid My Vaccine Pass to be onsite. 
  • Tertiary education providers who choose not to require My Vaccine Passes onsite at Red must be closed to students and visitors for onsite learning and may provide distance learning only. They must have systems and processes in place to ensure that only staff are able to be on site, and only to the extent necessary to provide distance or online learning. 
  • Masks must be used indoors at tertiary education premises in areas that are open to the public, and during formal teaching and learning activities (unless an exemption applies). Capacity limits also apply on tertiary education premises, based on the maximum number of people who could occupy the space if each person was one metre apart. (Note: physical distancing itself is not required under the framework for tertiary, however providers may impose their own distancing requirements.) 
  • Providers are encouraged to work with their students to offer appropriate learning options. 
  • Onsite businesses and services should operate subject to COVID-19 Protection Framework guidelines and rules for the relevant sector (for example, retail, hospitality, gyms, close-proximity businesses). Guidelines for these businesses and services are available on MBIE's business website.

COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights) – Business NZ

Changes to mask requirements

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced changes to mask-wearing requirements at Red.

Whenever masks are required to be worn, they must be the type that attaches to the head either through an ear loop or a head loop. Bandanas, scarves or t-shirts (and other items of clothing) pulled up over the mouth and nose are no longer acceptable to be used in the settings which require masks to be worn. 

It is also now recommended that masks be a medical-grade mask (for example a Type IIR/Level 2 mask). The widely available ‘blue’ medical mask is an example of these. Certain workers will be required to wear this type of mask. 

Tertiary staff are not included in the workers who are required to wear medical grade masks, but providers should consider if there are particular staff roles for which particular types of masks should be worn. Cloth masks that fit well will continue to be an option for staff and students in tertiary settings. 

Masks will now be required at food and drink businesses, close-proximity businesses, and events and gatherings, as well as for primary and secondary students Year 4 and up on public and Ministry of Education-funded school transport. 

There are no changes, however, to the locations where masks are required at Red for tertiary education. Masks must continue to be worn by everyone indoors in public spaces on tertiary education premises, and for formal teaching and learning activities, unless an exemption applies. At this stage, we understand that current exemptions to face covering rules will continue to apply. We will confirm this when the Order is finalised next week. 

Some places or activities on tertiary sites will fall under the new requirements – for example, the new mask requirements for hospitality, close-proximity businesses, events and gatherings – so we do encourage providers to familiarise themselves with the changes.

We’ll update our guidance to reflect the fact that masks are encouraged at all times. Providers will want to review their own health and safety policies around masks in light of Omicron. 

The Ministry of Health recently updated its mask and face covering guidance, including examples of medical-grade masks:

Use of masks and face coverings in the community – Ministry of Health

Omicron three-phase plan

Minister Verrall announced yesterday (26 January) the three-phase plan to slow and limit the spread of Omicron.

Omicron is the most transmissible COVID-19 variant yet and is expected to spread fast. The Government has planned for a high prevalence scenario where cases could be in the tens of thousands a day.

The Government plan for the three phases of its Omicron response is:  

  • Phase 1, where New Zealand is at now, doing what has successfully been done with Delta – using tools from a ‘stamp it out’ approach. 
  • In Phase 2, public health efforts aim to slow the spread of the virus. At this stage, most people who can, will interact with the Ministry of Health through digital tools. Support from health and welfare services will be provided as required. 
  • At Phase 3, public health response will be about minimising a widespread outbreak. When cases are in the tens of thousands, further changes will be made to contact tracing. 

We will provide further guidance on the implications of the Government’s three-phase plan for the tertiary education sector shortly. 

You can find more information on the three-phase plan on the Unite Against COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites: 

Government announces three phase public health response to Omicron – Unite against COVID-19

Omicron in the community: what this means for you – Ministry of Health

Case and contact management for tertiary providers

We notified the sector at the end of last year that a COVID-19 public health toolkit and step-by-step guide for tertiary providers is in development for the tertiary sector and would be released early this year.

The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing the draft toolkit in light of the new approach to case and contact management for Omicron. We are working to have this guidance ready for release on 1 February, with the new process beginning on 8 February.

In the meantime, until 8 February, please continue to follow the current approach to case management; that is, if a tertiary provider becomes aware of a case associated with their education or accommodation facility and they haven’t received notification from health authorities, they should immediately contact the TEC (Sandra Ramsay or Gillian Dudgeon) or their local public health unit: 



Public health unit contacts – Ministry of Health

Government booster requirements for mandated workforces

New COVID-19 booster requirements came into force over the weekend for specific workforces mandated for COVID-19 vaccination under the Vaccinations Order 2021:  

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2022 (SL 2022/4) – NZ Legislation

COVID-19: Vaccine boosters – Ministry of Health

Relevant workforces (including health and disability, education (schools and early learning only), Corrections, Police, Defence and Fire and Emergency) will be required to have their booster by a certain date or not later than six months after their second vaccination dose. 

At this stage, the requirement to receive a COVID-19 booster dose to work does not apply to tertiary staff who are required to be on site at Red.

We know that the booster requirements will impact on some parts of the tertiary sector (for example, those who fall within the health and disability workforce requirements).

We encourage providers to familiarise themselves with these new booster requirements (including the information they are required to gather as PCBUs) as relevant. 

Be prepared for COVID-19

Everyone, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, should prepare for what you need to do if you get COVID-19.  

The Unite against COVID-19 has resources to help you. 

Be prepared for COVID-19 – Unite against COVID-19

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 queries

All tertiary and international COVID-19 related queries can be emailed to us through our central mailbox COVID19.TertiaryandInternational@education.govt.nz.

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