Pupils at up to four Rotorua schools were giving parents the option to keep their children at home today after a flight attendant on the plane with two women who had Covid-19 visited the city.
Matua Koa, principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu, was this morning standing outside his school advising parents of the situation and offering them the opportunity to keep their children home until the affected whānau have been tested.
However, Toi Te Ora Public Health this afternoon confirmed the flight attendant's test result had come back negative.
Principals at another affected kura, Ngāti Rongomai, held a hui with its staff and parents last night to inform them of the situation as their students had also been affected.
The other two kura were Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hurungaterangi.
It is understood children from the four schools attended the same rugby training on Tuesday.
Dr Neil de Wet, medical officer of health for Toi Te Ora Public Health, said contacts of the recently confirmed cases in Wellington have been followed up nationally and to date they had not been informed of any that reside in the Lakes District Health Board area.
"The test result for the flight attendant is negative for Covid-19," de Wet said. "This news will be very reassuring for the Rotorua community."
It was revealed this week that two sisters travelled from the UK to visit a dying parent. They were allowed to leave their Auckland hotel and drive to Wellington.
Authorities are now frantically trying to trace the 320 suspected contacts of the pair.
Ngāti Rongomai co-principals Tukiterangi and Renata Curtis confirmed the flight attendant had contact with at least one of their students and she could have had contact with a handful of other, including teachers.
However, they had confirmation from the whānau this morning of the flight attendant's negative result. The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.
Renata Curtis said their school was "officially open" today but parents of all its 115 pupils had chosen to keep them home for the day.
The whānau involved had let them know in the early hours of Wednesday morning about the contact with the possible case. They had been with her the entire weekend.
The school operated under level 3 precautions yesterday and then held a Facebook live session letting all their school whānau know the situation.
Last night they let the other three schools know about the possible exposure as a precaution.
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After spending a week in their quarantine hotel in Auckland, the woman from the UK were allowed to leave the facility without being tested.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield initially claimed the pair had driven the 640km from Auckland to Wellington without stopping.
However, it's since been learned the pair got lost on an Auckland motorway and had five minutes of "limited physical contact" - a kiss and a hug - with two friends, the Ministry of Health confirmed last night.
He said the flight attendant had since been tested but the results would not be known until Friday.
Renata Curtis said they were "victims of a lack of something that should be done for every person that entered the country" and they were outraged that flight attendants were not being tested and had free movement.
"This has caused us and our whole school whānau a lot of undue stress."
She said it was Ministry of Education guidelines to keep the school running as normal before test results came back but they felt a "moral obligation" to put the choice in the "hands of the parents".
"We were stunned when we found out that the flight attendant hadn't been tested," Renata said.
"Why aren't they being put into quarantine after coming off overseas flights?" she asked.
She said the parents and other school principals had appreciated their "transparency".
They confirmed that the boys who had been in contact with the flight attendant had gone to the rugby training session.
She said if it had been a positive case, her school pupils would have had two full days of possible exposure.
"The fear this incident had caused for her school was a lot bigger than the actual risk," she said.
According to the Ministry of Health, "because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, air crew are exempt from the requirement for isolation or quarantine".
The exemption from managed isolation or quarantine only applied to aircraft pilots and flight crew members undertaking international flights as part of their paid duties.
Flight staff who commute overseas to undertake a rostered duty and air crew who have periods of duty outside of New Zealand of longer than seven days were not exempt.
All arriving international crew were required to undertake a health assessment on arrival. If they developed any symptoms or had close contact with a Covid-19 case, they must go to a quarantine or isolation facility for further assessment and management.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu held a staff meeting at 8.20am to discuss the issue further.
When contacted today, Koa was standing out the front gate of his school with other staff advising them of the connection.
Koa sent an email to parents last night after being advised that a flight attendant on the flight which brought the women over had been to Rotorua and spent time with whānau.
"That whānau have boys who attend one of our kura.
"We had rugby training [Tuesday] evening at Te Koutu and a couple of those boys attended the practice.
"The kura they attend is asking parents to keep their children at home."
Koa told the Herald that there were pupils from four different schools at the rugby training session.
He declined to say which school the boys attended. He said between two and four of the boys were at the training.
He said the school was open but he was giving parents the option of keeping their children at home for the next couple of days until the results of the flight attendant's test were known.
"Our parents are part and parcel of making decisions that keep their family safe, so we've offered them that choice. And our teachers as well.
"This is who we are and this is how we respond to keep ourselves safe.
"I know parents appreciate the information and being given the option and they can make an informed decision."
About 15 per cent of the schools 250 students had turned up today, while some staff had also chosen to stay home.
The pupils who had been at rugby training were not at school and he expected them to be quarantining.
A parent at Te Kura o Te Koutu said she was only sending her children to school today as she had to work.
She said it was a "little bit scary" but the school had told her they would keep them up to date with any developments.
"I know my kids are in good hands here."
Two other parents, Kacey Cummane and Kiri Ward, said they were not worried about sending their kids to school today.
Ward said she did not "live in fear" of the virus and knew the school had precautions to keep her kids safe.
"We both take personal hygiene into our own hands when it comes to our children."
Cummane said she was more bothered that two infected people were able to be out in the public.
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Ruamata was open today.
Koa said he had talked with the Board of Trustees and the Ministry of Education.
Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said he wanted to acknowledge the anxiety the incident had caused for local families and kura.
"It is reassuring to hear the flight attendant in question has tested negative for COVID-19, which puts to rest fears over transmission within our community."
"We are learning from this situation. This Government has swiftly stepped up security at our borders in response, calling in military support to assist with quarantine and give New Zealanders greater peace of mind."
He said the action included zero exemptions for compassionate leave, which was a tough call for whānau, but as this situation proves, one needed to keep families safe."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said it was really concerning for local parents that this could happen and "thank goodness we dodged such a serious situation for our city's young people".
He said there should be testing of all people upon international arrival and he had fielded loads of "distraught" emails from locals asking why the Covid-19 positive pair were able to travel freely.
"The Government really needs to get on top of this."