All schools and early childhood centres in New Zealand will close if national community transmission of Covid-19 is confirmed.

The criteria for nationwide school closures developed by the Ministry of Education was released today.

And in Parliament last night Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said bringing forward the Easter school holidays was an option being considered.

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In the trigger document, an all-school-and-education-centre-closure is ranked level five, the highest risk.

Blanket closures would go ahead when there is community transmission of the coronavirus on a national level, according to the document.

Schools and centres would initially close for 14 days. That would be reviewed thereafter until public health authorities determine it is safe to reopen.

It comes as the Government was yesterday poised to provide home internet and laptop or tablet devices for about 70,000 schoolchildren in the event that schools have to close.

The Herald revealed last night the Government is developing a behind-the-scenes plan for the emergency rollout and had this week surveyed all schools about whether teachers can provide online learning from home, and how many students need devices at home.

The early learning and school responses to Covid-19 criteria ranks situations from risk levels 1 to 5. They are:

Level 1: When a student or staff member has no symptoms but close contact with a confirmed case - track and trace.

Level 2: When a student or staff member has symptoms and close contact with a confirmed case or tests positive - close school temporarily or for at least 72 hours.


Level 3: When there are cases from multiple families in the same school that could be community transmission - 14 day closure.

Level 4: When there is confirmed community transmission but contained to a geographical area - close all schools and centres in that location for 14 days.

Level 5: Community transmission on a national level - close all schools and centres for at least 14 days.

Hipkins said in Parliament current public health advice was schools and early learning centres were still safe places for young people.

However, under questioning by National education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye, Hipkins said officials would consider bringing the April school holidays forward.

"Bringing forward the school holidays early in order to create some breathing space is an option and if the public advice is that's useful, that's certainly one of the options on the table they can draw on."

The April school holidays start on Good Friday, April 10, and run until Sunday, April 26.

"It is a rapidly evolving situation and advice is being updated and changing," Hipkins said.

"Health officials and education officials are working together to keep people safe.

"They have agreed protocol which they are implementing which takes into account a whole variety of different scenarios and situations.

"The approach is currently a targeted one because there is no community transmission at this point.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders is of utmost importance and as situations change we will take action."

Pukekohe Intermediate School, where a child is being tested for Covid-19, will close on Monday regardless of the test result because principal Gary Sweeney said it would be difficult to communicate with parents over the weekend.