* 2.2 million cases globally, with almost 150,000 deaths - residents in New York and London being told to wear masks in public
* NZ has 582 active cases, 11 deaths and 816 recoveries
* China raises Wuhan death toll - by 50 per cent
* 108 people in lockdown - is this New Zealand's biggest bubble?
* Haunting video of Auckland a surprise global hit
* Latest developments and essential information
Parents will be told when their children are going back to school, rather than being given a choice in whether to attend classes.
Officials admitted to a "mis-step" in the way rules for level 3 in the coronavirus alert system were communicated this week. Going back to school will not be "voluntary".
Principals' Federation president Perry Rush says Ministry of Education head Iona Holsted has confirmed that schools will be able to enrol students on their physical sites during level 3 only if no one is available to care for them at home.
"I did have a clarification today that the term 'voluntary' is muddying the waters. It's not a voluntary return to school," he said.
"It's 'If you need to be at school, you can'. Voluntary implies want; need is if you have to be there. That was unequivocally communicated by Iona."
Ministry bulletins issued at 9pm tonight to schools and early childhood services said that, at level 3: "Parents and caregivers keep their children at home and maintain distance learning where that is possible; parents and caregivers can send children to school if they need to."
At 6pm the Government's Covid-19 website still said: "Physical attendance at school is voluntary, but all children not at school should be learning by distance."
But by 9pm that sentence had been replaced by: "Where possible, students should remain at home connected to distance learning. Where parents or caregivers need to, they can send their children to school."
The bulletins also say that, at level 3:
• Group sizes (bubbles) in schools and early learning will be limited to 10 children initially, then 20 "once all processes are running smoothly". There must be no mixing between bubbles.
• Start and finish times and break times must be staggered to avoid mixing between bubbles.
• Strict health rules must be followed including hand sanitiser in all classes and daily disinfecting of all surfaces.
• Physical education cannot allow children closer than two metres. No balls, ropes or sticks.
• Special schools and after-school programmes remain closed.
• New rules for early childhood include more space per child and lifting the minimum temperature from 16C to 18C.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that schools and early childhood services would reopen when the country moves to level 3 on a "voluntary" basis.
"Early childhood centres and schools will be available up to Year 10 only, but attendance is purely voluntary," she said.
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The announcement alarmed many parents and teachers.
A parent in a family where both adults are working from home has described her "moral dilemma" over whether to send their two children to school so that the adults can focus on their work, or "maintain the incredibly high stress-levels of juggling both home and work life, and protect the health of our darling kids and awesome teachers".
Another family, whose daughter Georgia Martin turned 5 on the first day of the level 4 lockdown, has been stuck in "a state of limbo" with no word from Georgia's planned school on when she would be able to start.
Teachers commenting on the Facebook page of the NZ Educational Institute are also overwhelmingly worried about the safety of other people in their home "bubbles" and are reluctant to return to their classrooms until the alert level moves down to level 2.
Hillcrest High School teacher Stevan Sharples told the Herald that the decision was gambling with the lives of children and their teachers.
"This is not a game of Russian Roulette! Covid-19 is the gun. And we are the players! The Government are pulling the trigger and there will be no winners here," he said.
Rush joined the chorus on Thursday night, saying it was "inconsistent" to let businesses reopen only under strict physical distancing rules while reopening schools for young children where physical distancing is impossible.
However, after talking with Holsted and other officials yesterday, Rush told other principals that "careful planning will be undertaken to make the Government's plan workable whilst maintaining the safety of staff and students".
"That includes the likelihood that students will not be allowed to randomly turn up at school. Rather, it is probable that an alert level 3 roll will be established for each school," he said.
He said schools had to know which students should be at school premises and which ones should be at home, so that those who should be at school can be tracked down if they don't turn up.
"The other important piece of information is for Government to be clear about who is able to return to school, and by that I mean the message is, 'Stay at home if you can. If you can't, and you need to attend a school, then you may'," he said.
"I think the Government would agree that communication, or the lack of it yesterday [Thursday], was a mis-step. However, today's conversation was really constructive, with lots of commitment to work together to flesh out the details."
He said teachers and parents who were worried about the risk should wait to see the situation when schools reopen, likely to be on April 29 if the Cabinet decides on Monday to move to level 3. Only eight new Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday, although two more New Zealanders died.
"We have to be careful that we are not making assumptions about what April 29, if that is the date, will look like," he said.
Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said the Education Ministry had obtained a supply of hand sanitiser which would be distributed free to all schools and early childhood centres by around April 29.
He said the ministry accepted that trying to keep small children one metre apart from each other and from teachers would cause distress and "do more damage than good".
However, childcare centres would try to contain children within a "bubble" at each centre by measures such as asking parents to stay outside when they drop off and pick up children.
Rush said close contact within each bubble at primary schools was inevitable. But he said schools could keep children in separate class bubbles within the school by changes such as staggering lunch breaks and school starting and finishing times.
Holsted said "every school and early learning service will be in a different situation".
"There is still a lot of detail to work through before we can even begin to reopen schools and early learning services and public health and safety remain the top priority," she said.
"We also know that every family is different. We're asking parents who can keep their children at home while we're in level 3 to please do so to allow schools and early learning services to provide first for families who have less flexibility at home."