Years 11, 12 and 13 will be back at school in Waikato, Auckland and Northland after the weekend.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the return of senior students at today’s 1pm update.  

“Based on the latest public health advice, we have determined that students in year 11, 12 and 13 will be able to return to the classroom in an alert level 3 area on Tuesday 26 October,” he said. 

NCEA and scholarship exams for senior students in those areas will also be held, but students will be able to receive an “unexpected event grade” due to ongoing Covid disruption if needed. 

Hipkins said an unexpected grade is based on work done throughout the year. For students in Waikato, Auckland and Northland, if they are unable to attend an exam due to a “Covid-19 specific disruption”, they will be eligible for this.

Students in these areas who do sit exams will also be eligible, and will receive the better of their exam grade or unexpected grade.

“While students will still be expected to attend exams where possible, the long-established unexpected event grade process will reflect what happens in any year where a student’;s attendance or performance in exams is affected by illness or injury,” Hipklins said. 

He also noted that all students in years 11,12 and 13 are eligible for the vaccine because they are over 12. 

“We want to get our young people back into the classroom as soon as we can but we also want to keep them and the wider community safe.”

What the rules are at school

When at school, students and staff will have to wear face masks. Any staff and volunteers will also need to have a negative test before returning to school. Face masks will be required on school transport. 

In all regions, school staff and volunteers will have to have had at least one dose of the vaccine by November 15. 

Schools will also need to keep records for contact tracing purposes

Hipkins also said children, young people and staff who are at higher risk of severe illness from Covid should stay home unless they are fully vaccinated. 

NZQA is also due to work with schools around public health safety measures for exams.

What about students in years 1 to 10

For younger students in alert level 3 areas, Hipkins said more information is due to be released next Tuesday (October 26). This announcement is also due to cover early childhood centres, Hipkins said. 

The Government is “not completely ruling out” a return to school for these students before the end of the school year, however there needs to be processes in place to minimise the risk, Hipkins said. 

He also acknowledged that any setting where there are groups of children under 12 was “higher risk” as they were not able to be vaccinated. 

However, measures like rostered attendance or outdoor teaching when the weather was appropriate could be put in place to help reduce risk, he said.  

Today’s case numbers

Health Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield ran through the latest Covid cases. 

Today, there are 60 new cases - 56 in Auckland and 4 in Waikato.

22 of today’s cases are yet to be linked to a current case. For the 4 Waikato cases, 2 are household contacts and the other 2 are known to have likely links to existing cases

Of yesterday's 94 cases, 34 are still unlinked.

There are 43 people in hospital, with 5 in ICU or the high dependency unit.

In total, there are 2158 cases in the current community outbreak. 1389 have recovered.

Dr Bloomfield also said more information about a third vaccination dose for immunocompromised people would be available later today at the Ministry of Health website

The information would include inclusion criteria, and how people would be identified and contacted. This group of people would not be booked through the Book My Vaccine site. 

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