* NZ has 131 active cases, with 11 people in hospital; worldwide there have now been more than 25 million cases reported and 847,000 deaths
* Exclusive poll shows Aucklanders divided over lockdown extension
* Credit to the Prime Minister for the brave call to take Auckland to level 2, writes Heather du Plessis-Allan
* 50 face masks an hour: Auckland woman made redundant sets up new business
A Māngere primary school has made masks "non-negotiable" for all its students and staff, despite official advice still saying that they're not necessary.
The stance comes as some schools in South Auckland reported attendance of just a third of their students as the region enjoyed its first day out of level 3 lockdown yesterday.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins this morning told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking the Government realised there would be some concerns for families about children returning to school.
He said while there was uncertainty about children not turning up to class, it was too early for attendant services to chase up families who were keeping pupils home.
"It is safe to send your kids back to school," said Hipkins.
"We want kids back in school and we encourage parents to send their kids back to school," he said.
Individual schools would be following up over the absenteeism and if there was a persistent problem then families could be referred to authorities.
"I think it's a bit early to be talking about doing that sort of thing yet but ultimately we do have attendant services who can follow those sorts of things up," he said.
Hipkins said he could understand the degree of hesitance felt by many parents.
"But we wouldn't be reopening schools if we thought we were increasing the risk by doing that," he said.
He said yesterday that it was "not okay" to keep children away from school.
"Their futures depend on this."
Hipkins told Hosking this morning that an advertising botch - which saw some 700,000 people thinking they needed a test across West and South Auckland - should not be repeated. All advertising on Covid will now come past the Government.
Explaining what went wrong in the whole of government social media testing advertisement, Hipkins said: "It appears that wires got crossed there. We've had a very good look at the systems behind the authorisation for those ads before they go up, bearing in mind that none of them came past anyone in the Beehive so we didn't see them before they went up, so we're making sure that system is fixed so that that sort of thing doesn't happen again."
Hipkins today encouraged all those skilled workers who had returned to New Zealand since the international Covid outbreak to get into workforce and bolster the economy.
Yesterday, nine new Covid-19 cases were reported - five in the community and four in quarantine. Crowds of people swarmed to the city's airport taking the opportunity to travel between regions.
Hipkins yesterday said 90 per cent of Aucklanders wore masks on public transport, which became mandatory from midnight on Sunday.
The Pasifika community has borne the brunt of the current Auckland outbreak, accounting for 64 per cent of the cases as of yesterday. Māori accounted for 21 per cent.
Several South Auckland schools reported that more than 80 per cent of their students turned up in masks on the first day of "alert level 2.5", reflecting calls from public health experts for masks in all secondary schools and indoor workplaces.
Sutton Park School in Māngere, where 523 of the 538 students on the roll are Pasifika or Māori, has issued three masks to each student - one to wear inside, one for outside and one to wear home from school.
Principal Fa'afili Iosua Esera said all staff and students are required to wear them.
"Wearing a mask at our school is non-negotiable. It doesn't matter how old you are - even our 5-year-olds are expected to wear masks," he said.
He said only 30 to 40 per cent of the school's students turned up when the school opened its doors to all students today - although that was better than expected.
"Last time we had only about 10 per cent of the roll return in the first few days of level 2, so we are pleasantly surprised that a lot more turned up today," he said.
James Cook High School in Manurewa said just over half of its students turned up, and 80 to 85 per cent of them wore masks - along with "virtually all" their teachers.
"That's because our school is strongly encouraging staff and students to wear masks," said principal Grant McMillan.
"We have had a lunchtime facemask-making informal workshop run by a deputy principal and others, with dozens of students making masks.
"Our community is extraordinarily vigilant during this last lockdown, and we need to make sure we are playing our part."
Catholic girls' school McAuley High School said 80 per cent of its students wore masks, and boys' school De La Salle College said about half of its students wore them, thanks to a mass mask-making effort by St Joseph and St Joachim Church in Ōtāhuhu.
McAuley principal Jan Waelen said 81 per cent of students attended, down from 91 per cent when schools last moved to alert level 2 on May 18.
De La Salle principal Myles Hogarty said his attendance was up slightly from the "low sixties" in May to 65 or 66 per cent.
Ōtāhuhu Primary School principal Jason Swann reported a turnout of just 34 per cent, with a third of children in masks.
Māngere Central School principal Jacqualene Maindonald also said a third of her students turned up, with fewer than 20 per cent in masks.
"We have created a mask-making 'challenge' which they have to complete by Friday, so next week we'll have more children wearing masks because they will have masks," she said.
Māngere College principal Tom Webb reported a turnout of 40 per cent, with "a quarter to a third of students" in masks.
Manurewa High School principal Pete Jones reported 60 per cent attendance, with a third of students and most staff wearing masks.
"We have disposable masks available for all staff and students who want to wear them and we have ordered washable masks for all our students and staff which will arrive later in the week," he said.
"We will be working hard to create a culture where students and staff who want to feel comfortable to wear them in and around school."
Manurewa's Rowandale School principal Karl Vasau reported a 54 per cent turnout with only "a handful" of staff and students wearing masks.
Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said turnout dropped from the mid-70s in May to 65 per cent this time around, with fewer than 20 per cent in masks.
Papakura High School's John Rohs reported a 60 per cent turnout with only about 30 students in masks.
In contrast, Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Stephen Lethbridge reported 96 per cent attendance at his school, Pt Chevalier, where only 12 per cent of students are Pasifika and Māori.
"Kids have been coming in. They are happy, they are smiling," he said.
"A large number of parents are wearing face masks. There might be a few children and that's perfectly okay."
Auckland Kindergarten Association reported an average turnout of about 50 per cent, with numbers in each group of 16 kindergartens ranging from 400 on the North Shore to 171 in West Auckland and just 104 children across South Auckland.
A private childcare centre owner, who asked not to be identified, reported 50 per cent attendance in Blockhouse Bay and 43 per cent in Avondale and also in Tauranga.
Secondary Principals' Association president Deidre Shea reported a turnout of about 80 per cent at her school, Onehunga High School, with a minority of both staff and students wearing masks.
Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Steve Hargreaves said attendance at his school, Macleans College, was "well into the 90s", with about 10 per cent of students wearing masks.
"We have provided masks to our staff and almost all staff have taken that up to wear them," he said.
"It's possible to speak to a class in them. It just means that they do speak less and rely more on demonstration and written instructions."
Hargreaves said students would need clear instructions if mask wearing was recommended in schools.
"Students would be forever readjusting their masks, they would remove them to eat or drink or to make themselves heard in the class, and that might reduce the effectiveness of them," he said.
Four Otago University public health researchers led by Dr Amanda Kvalsvig called last week for masks to be compulsory in secondary schools, saying: "Mask use in adolescents should be brought into line with recommendations and mandates for mask use by adults".
"Earlier outbreak investigations did not identify schools as important settings for transmission but schools have largely been closed during lockdowns and for Northern Hemisphere summer holidays," they said.
"Numerous school-based outbreaks are being reported as schools and universities reopen, and young adults now contribute a high proportion of cases worldwide."
Kvalsvig said students in many other countries are required to wear masks and most find it "straightforward".
"Initially it was mainly students in Asian countries, but now there's rapid uptake around the world," she said.
"For example, Germany introduced mask wearing relatively recently and students have been great at adapting to this new practice. In most places it's for both primary and secondary students, with more supervision and flexibility for younger students."
The World Health Organisation recommends that "children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area".
Asked for comment, the Ministry of Education pointed to a statement by Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay that "children and teens don't become as unwell if they do get infected, and they don't tend to pass the virus on so much as adults in the classroom setting".
"The purpose of wearing a face covering wrapped around your nose and mouth is to prevent the spread of infection between people," she said.
"With the other public health measures we have put in place in schools and early learning services, coupled with the reduced risk of transmission at alert level 2, we consider the risk of infection is low."