School holiday programme providers say they are ready to start early if the Easter school holidays are brought forward because of coronavirus.

YMCA North chief executive Julian Baldey, which runs holiday programmes in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, said he was "already prepared" to start early if schools close at any time before the holidays are due to start on Good Friday, April 10.

"We are geared up," he said. "We do have the capacity and we are ready to go.

"We have been talking to schools, and also to corporates, around the possibility of being able to offer smaller groups more akin to child-minding holiday programmes."


No decision has yet been made to close schools beyond short-term closures of particular schools where students or staff have tested positive for coronavirus, but the signs are that the Government may soon follow other countries in imposing full-scale school shutdowns.

Unesco says 107 countries have now closed all their schools and a further 12 countries have implemented localised closures. Australia and New Zealand now stand out on the world map as unusual in keeping all schools open.

The Government has received a copy of an influential scientific model by British researchers showing that the only way to avoid mass deaths from coronavirus, unless it can be contained at the border, is "suppressing" the virus through minimising physical contact, including closing schools.

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Baldey said staff across YMCA programmes, including gyms and pools, have been accredited to work with children, so they could be moved into programmes for schoolchildren if schools are closed and parents need childcare.

"Obviously it will be subject to Government guidelines around gatherings. We may have to use smaller groups," he said.

Outings to places such as Kelly Tarlton's have been cancelled and children will stay on the holiday programme sites to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.

"We'll also be making sure that we follow proper hygiene procedures," he said.


Out of School Care Network manager John Kennedy said it was hard to speak for all providers because three-quarters of children attend small local programmes run by schools, churches, community groups and individuals. But all are aware that schools may close.

"We are talking about it intensely. That is the question every single person has who runs a holiday programme," he said.

"All parents can ask their holiday programmes that. Some will and some won't, but all will try."

He said some programmes are staffed mainly by students, who might be available if tertiary education is shut down as well as schools. But others are run by older people who might be vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Carolyn Payne, who runs Kids After School programmes at six Franklin schools, said she had already asked two school boards about whether she could run programmes in their schools if the schools close.

"We'll be guided by the boards of trustees. If they don't want us to run a programme, we won't," she said.


She has also cancelled excursions, has stopped providing cups and has asked children to bring their own drink bottles.

"We usually get the older children to make sandwiches. We won't be doing that, staff will make them."

Meanwhile, she said, three families have temporarily withdrawn their children from after-school care because of coronavirus. One family is self-isolating after returning from overseas and the other two have started working from home.