All schools and Early Childhood Education Centres will be closed from midnight tomorrow and tertiary institutions will as soon as possible amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

The exception is for the children of identified essential workers who can continue going to school until midnight on Wednesday while their parents make alternative arrangements.

But any vulnerable children or workers should stay home immediately and parents of children with learning disabilities should talk to their schools.

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This afternoon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand's alert level is now at a 3 but we will move alert level 4 after 48 hours.

That will mean a full nationwide lockdown of all non-essential businesses and services with people moving from their homes as little as possible.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the school holidays, originally scheduled to start on April 9, would be brought forward so they sit within the four-week shutdown.

All education institutions are working to teach online where it was appropriate and could be delivered consistently, he said.

Many had already been working to establish how to do that after the Government announced the self-isolation measures last week.

"We're also working very hard to scale up the online learning facilities that are available, including looking at the equity issues around that."

New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown will be managed by a leadership team of some of the country's top officials. That team is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Peter Crabtree.

Hipkins said most children had the capacity to get online immediately.

But the Government estimated about 20 per cent of students who were in financially tough situations didn't have access to broadband or don't have devices, he said.


"So we're looking at how quickly we could deal with those equity issues, so if we do end up in a period where kids need to be learning from home longer, we can make sure we respond to that as soon as possible."

Some schools who had extra devices had offered to supply them to schools which didn't have enough, he said.

And the Government had been working with telecommunications providers to ensure every child had broadband access at home, Hipkins said.

A list of essential workers would be provided to schools so they knew exactly which children would need to continue going to school tomorrow and Wednesday.

"The nature of the school day will obviously change significantly for Tuesday and Wednesday because I imagine they won't be running their regular timetabled classes."

Hipkins said he'd asked schools that over these two days, schools ensured students were physically distancing.


Hipkins said funding for all educational facilities would continue through the lockdown.

"Funding for all education providers will continue to flow as normal.

"Funding for early childhood and tertiary providers will not be cut or clawed back based on non-attendance or other key performance indicators.

"It's important for the sector to know that this money will still continue to arrive."

Hipkins said it was too early to assess what impact the lockdown would have on learning and exams.

He hoped that bringing the two-week school holiday forward would mitigate some of the damage but it also depended on how long the lockdown ended up being enforced for.