The country's biggest childcare organisation is still advising its members to stay closed when schools and early childhood services officially reopen their doors on April 29.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that schools and early childhood centres will open for children from next Wednesday, the second day after the country leaves the level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on Monday, April 27.
The Principals' Federation and teacher unions say schools and most early childhood services will meet that timetable.
But the Early Childhood Council, whose 1300 childcare services have about 65,000 of the 200,000 children enrolled in early childhood education (ECE), says it is still recommending that its centres should stay closed because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Government has heard the anxiety coming out of our sector but has chosen to ignore it," said the council's chief executive Peter Reynolds, who called yesterday for ECE to stay closed in level 3.
Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield told journalists that children "have low infection rates, they don't become unwell, and they don't pass on the virus to other children and adults".
But Reynolds said there was a lack of international evidence on whether or not children passed on the virus, and it was known that some children had been infected including three babies in New Zealand.
"So we remain of the view that services should not open under level 3," he said.
He and the NZ Educational Institute have asked the Ministry of Health to release the public health advice that Bloomfield provided to Cabinet on the risks of reopening schools and ECE services.
Another ECE group, Child Forum, said each ECE service would make its own decision on whether to reopen.
"Most ECEs are classified as commercial or community-owned and are not state-owned. So, the choice to open or not is the same for most ECE services as it is for any other private business," it said in a newsletter.
Its director, Dr Sarah Alexander, said each centre's decision would depend on whether it has teachers available to work who are not in a vulnerable group and willing to return to full contact with children.
"In the first week, take-up could be very small by families. For example, a centre that would normally have say up to 50 children might find they have only two to eight children returning in the first week.
"If I had a young child I would likely not rush back but wait at least a week or longer to see if there were new infections and if it was indeed safe to go back."
But she estimated that 70 to 90 per cent of teacher-led ECE services could be fully operational again by the second week of level 3, depending on whether staff are available.
Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said he expected most schools to be open by April 29.
He said most would contact parents this week to find out which children would be returning to school, and would then have to arrange for the correct numbers of teachers to be at school, while other teachers would continue teaching students online from home.
Ardern said she still wants "the vast majority of young people learning from home".
But she also said that moving to level 3 will allow about 400,000 adults to return to their workplaces in sectors such as construction, manufacturing and forestry, and no one is sure how many of them will need schools and childcare because there won't be anyone to care for their children at home.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Childcare centres want to stay closed at alert level 3
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Ministry of Education releases more information on return to school
• Covid 19 coronavirus: School at level 3 won't be voluntary after all
• Covid 19 coronavirus: What alert level 3 and other levels mean for you
Bloomfield will answer questions from educators about the health and safety ground rules for reopening schools in a public Facebook Live session on the Ministry of Education's Facebook page at 3.45pm on Tuesday.
• Level 3 education rules: covid19.govt.nz.