Auckland's children are staying away from schools and childcare centres this week as fear grows about the latest Covid-19 outbreaks.
Ministry of Education data shows attendance rates of 30 per cent in early childhood education and 5 per cent in schools across Auckland on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week after level 3 restrictions were imposed on Wednesday.
School principals and early childhood groups believe the true attendance rates are actually much lower, and well below attendance the last time the country was in level 3 in early May.
Secondary Principals' Association president Deidre Shea said only between one and four of the 1500 students at her school, Onehunga High School, have turned up at school each day since the level 3 restrictions were imposed.
"I do think the anxiety in the community is higher this time and people are saying we are going to wait this one week," she said.
Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Stephen Lethbridge, who reported only four children at his Pt Chevalier School last week, has six at school today - down from 13 to 15 in early May.
"Just looking at the local schools around us, there are not as many back as there were the last time at level 3."
Early Childhood Council president Dr Darius Singh polled about 50 Auckland childcare centres at the council's annual meeting today and found attendance rates of between 2 and 10 per cent, with an average of 9 per cent.
In his own two Auckland centres he has 10 children out of 100 at one centre and four out of 60 at the other.
He said some parents kept their children at home today after news of the worker at a quarantine hotel testing positive separate from the known South Auckland cluster.
"When they see random strands like this, that puts the fear factor back on all parents," he said.
On the other hand, Singh's staff have kept working this time whereas he had to keep his centres closed in early May when staff felt vulnerable for themselves or other people in their households.
"This time they no longer feel they are vulnerable. They are willing to work," he said.
Auckland Kindergarten Association general manager of education and innovation Bram Kukler said only 19 of the 129 kindergartens across the Auckland and North Auckland area are open, with a grand total of only 41 children attending - an average of two in each centre.
"We do see the requests from parents are increasing as the week goes on, but then today we saw a lot of parents cancelling because of the weather."
Although the Ministry of Education has allowed secondary schools to invite Years 12 and 13 students back on to their premises from today, it says only 27 of Auckland's 130 secondary schools have applied to do so.
Ministry head Iona Holsted said reasons included "accessing technology and fast broadband, access to equipment such as musical instruments that are not available at home, access to licenced software only available on-site and access to a suitable learning environment to study".
But at Onehunga High School, one of the schools that have been given approval, Shea said only one senior student turned up today and she expects "no more than 10" tomorrow.
"Our intention is for them to learn in exactly the same way as they would at home," she said.
"We have made that decision on the basis of equity. If we offer teaching to one group and not those who are still at home, it would not be fair."
Shea said the ministry data showing 5 per cent attendance at Auckland schools from Wednesday to Friday last week was surprising.
"That's much higher than my colleagues are suggesting."
Primary schools expected about 6 per cent of students to attend the last time the city was in level 3, but actual attendance turned out to be below that.