COVID-19 (coronavirus) information

COVID-19 (coronavirus) information

Last updated 27 March 2020
Last updated 27 March 2020

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) updates for tertiary education organisations, tertiary students and trainees in New Zealand.

Student repatriation

This update provides information on the repatriation of international students, including flights and domestic travel to the airport to get those flights.

  • Currently New Zealand is now at Alert Level 4 in its response to COVID-19.
  • Under Alert Level 4, no domestic flights will be permitted for students wanting to connect with flights after midnight, 27th March. Transport to the airport to get to an international flight and return home is permitted as long as you are driven by someone in your “bubble” before midnight, 27th March.
  • German students who have registered with the Embassy should not leave their accommodation “bubble” until they receive an email direct from the German Embassy with confirmation of seats and flight times. If they do not have this email they should not travel.
  • The Level 4 restrictions on travel in New Zealand are important for us all to protect the health of everyone in New Zealand and to save lives. If transport is being undertaken please respect the social distancing requirements.

Useful links 

Update: 26 March 2020

Students (domestic and international) unable to return home

  • Under Alert Level 4, no travel will be permitted for domestic students from midnight Friday 27th March and some international students will also be affected due to lack of flights home.
  • We are aware that a few countries might look to repatriate their citizens by making special flights.
  • We are seeking urgent advice on this and will provide an update as soon as possible.
  • Students (including international students) may have to remain in residential accommodation. Providing services to these students so that they can self-isolate is an essential service.  This includes on-campus medical services, catering, pastoral care and other services.
  • Residential facilities must support remaining students to self-isolate and must strictly enforce personal distancing and hygiene requirements, in accordance with MOH guidelines.
  • You should maintain close contact with international students to ensure that they have access to suitable accommodation and are supported to deal with visa issues, travel insurance, and other essential arrangements.
  • Students with expiring visas with an expiry date of 1st April 2020 or earlier and who are unable to leave New Zealand must apply on-line for a new visa. An interim visa will be issued.
  • Students with expiring visas with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who are in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 will have their visas extended to 25 September 2020. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.

To keep updated on travel restrictions and visa information visit the Immigration website.

International Students under 18

  • Students under 18 must remain in suitable accommodation under the supervision of appropriate caregivers who have been subject to a full safety check including Police vetting.
  • If there is a need to urgently Police vet a new homestay provider, NZ Police are able to process vetting requests urgently to ensure that Police checking requirements for ‘safe accommodation’ are met. This service should only be used for genuinely urgent applications affected by the withdrawal of homestay families due to health concerns.
  • You can submit the request via the New Zealand Police as per the usual process, entering 'HOMESTAY URGENT' into the ‘Agency Reference’ field of the online vetting request form. These police vets are likely to be processed within 1-2 working days.

If you have specific questions about pastoral care, please call NZQA’s Code team on 0800 697 296 or code.enquiries@nzqa.govt.nz

How can we help?

For providers requiring pastoral care guidance for international students, you should contact the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (on 0800 697 296 or code.enquiries@nzqa.govt.nz) for advice.

Please keep the Ministry of Education informed of any issues with international students which you may not be able to manage, particularly where students are having issues with accommodation. 

What do I do if there is a confirmed case in a tertiary setting?

  • If a person is confirmed as a case of COVID-19 in shared accommodation the provider will need to take a leading role in supporting them to access support and to communicate with the whānau to keep them informed.
  • The person who has been identified as a confirmed case should self-isolate in accordance with MOH guidelines.  Reach out to them to enquire about their situation and supply information on how to access health services. Any support should be provided remotely where possible e.g. through online channels or phone calls.
  • These are some good things to ask:
    • Where is the person staying? Are there any concerns about preventing the spread of the virus?
    • Are they in contact with whānau and other support networks? Do they have someone who can care for them?
    • Do they have access to food or groceries (either online or if someone can get them)?
    • What support do they have in place and do they know about additional support that is available to them?
    • Who else are they staying with? Are they self-isolating (as close contacts)?
    • How will they continue to stay in touch with their provider? Who is the key contact person? How frequently will that person be checking in
  • Providers should immediately contact Gillian Dudgeon at the Tertiary Education Commission Gillian.Dudgeon@tec.govt.nz  or Sandra.Ramsay@tec.govt.nz or; Eve McMahon at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority Eve.McMahon@nzqa.govt.nz (0227 509 7980) to alert her to a confirmed case. The purpose of this initial communication is,  to find out what support the provider will need and advise them where they can go for this – the Ministries of Health or Education – and to advise a future point of contact regarding the confirmed case.
  • Providers should communicate with others in the shared accommodation about what is expected from them, and should offer wellbeing support.
  • Other students staying in the accommodation may be considered close or casual contacts and asked to isolate, or given information about what to do so if they become unwell. Providers should remain in regular contact with these students to ensure that they have access to food, supplies and support for their mental health and wellbeing.
  • The Regional Medical Officer of Health will advise whether additional steps may be needed – for example extra cleaning, additional Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for essential staff. They will also advise whether it is safe for students to continue to use communal areas. 

We recommend that providers issue a statement to their community to notify other staff and students of the confirmed case.  It is important to support the wellbeing of all students, staff, and members of the wider education community at this time.

For health advice, please refer to the Ministry of Health’s website.

For Cross-agency information about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), including health advice and travel restrictions visit the All-of-Government website 

For additional advice for tertiary providers/whare wananga visit the Ministry of Education website

Useful links 

Update: 23 March 2020

The Prime Minister has announced that we are now at COVID-19 alert level 3, and will be moving to alert level 4 in 48 hours. Information about the four level alert system is here.

Our observation is that the sector has by and large implemented most changes required for alert level 3.  You should be directing all of your efforts to preparing for alert level 4.

The general guidelines on alert level 4 are as follows:

  • People are instructed to stay at home
  • All educational facilities are to close and provide distance learning where this can be reasonably managed by staff working from home
  • Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities
  • Travel severely limited
  • Major reprioritisation of healthcare services

Under level 4, the following guidelines apply to all Tertiary Education Organisations:

  • Your number one priority should be the welfare of your students and staff, and ensuring that they can self-isolate in accordance with new MoH guidelines as per the PM’s announcement.
  • All education and research services requiring face to face contact should be suspended immediately. As much delivery as possible should be shifted online, so long as this can be managed by staff working at home.
  • Many students (including international students) are likely to have to remain in residential accommodation, either because this is their only available accommodation, or because they are unable to travel home. Providing services to these students so that they can self-isolate is an essential service.  This includes on-campus medical services, catering, pastoral care and other services.
  • Residential facilities must support remaining students to self-isolate and must strictly enforce personal distancing and hygiene requirements, in accordance with MOH guidelines.
  • Medical research required for combatting COVID-19 is an essential service.
  • All staff not working in essential services should be sent home. This includes all senior executives.  Vulnerable staff who are providing essential services should be sent home and their roles filled by others.
  • All TEOs should comply with any instructions from authorised government officials including in relation to requisitions and rationing.
  • All TEOs should assume that they will continue to be funded at their 2020 Investment Plan and Fees Free levels until further notice.

Government education agencies are moving to remote working and will remain in operation.

Government agencies are working on a range of ways to support TEOs and students through this stage of COVID-19 and we will announce further guidance and measures as these are developed. 

In the first instance we are giving considerable thought to how we support distance delivery.  We will send out a separate bulletin with some advice on this. 

Useful links 

Update: 19 March 2020

Further advice on mass gatherings

The Government has announced today that there must not be mass gatherings of more than 100 people indoors. This does not apply to tertiary providers, schools, workplaces or public transport.  This exemption for tertiary providers relates to the services essential to educational delivery only (graduations as an example are not essential).

This is in addition to non-essential gatherings being cancelled if the gathering involves more than 500 people in an indoor or outdoor setting.

Tertiary providers should seek to implement the Ministry of Health’s recommendations on social distancing and hygiene (see links below) as far as possible, for both staff and students. You should give consideration to how to apply these in the context of classes, lectures, hostels and communal and social spaces. Our expectations are that you continue to use your discretion to manage the situation on the ground as best as possible.

We encourage providers to give calm, accurate and reassuring messages to your students. If they are well, students should attend class as usual. Students who are unwell should stay at home.

If you have a particular concern about a student or staff member, ask the student or staff member to call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international callers). Healthline has translators and interpreters available 24/7 in 150 languages.

Education sector agencies are reviewing rules and guidelines on funding and quality assurance and what support you need in your continued engagement with staff and students. Agencies are working with TEOs now to provide direct information and please continue to use usual channels for any queries that you have.

Meanwhile, if you have concerns or are aware of problems being raised by students, we encourage you to continue to raise these with the relevant agencies.

Update: 17 March 2020

Advice on mass gatherings – Essential and non-essential

The Prime Minister announced on the 16th March, 2020 clear advice regarding mass gatherings. In summary, all essential gatherings such as tertiary institutions, parliament, schools, preschools, and work should continue.

Non-essential gatherings should be cancelled if the gathering involves more than 500 people in an indoor or outdoor setting.  A more detailed framework for gatherings will be released later in the week.

Examples of how this advice is relevant to tertiary institutions

  • We encourage you to develop blended and online learning options, e.g. videoing lectures.  Lectures and large classes can still go ahead, however providers should put due safeguards in place (e.g. ability to track and trace, social distancing where possible)
  • Tutorials and small classes involving smaller numbers of students could continue in person. The usual health precautions should be taken - remind students and staff that basic hygiene measures are the most important way to stop the spread of infections.
  • For those learners in workplaces, tertiary providers should contact employers to discuss guidelines and support arrangements.
  • Sports tournaments should be cancelled if they involve more than 500 competitors and/or spectators.
  • Providers could consider whether it is safe for student unions to remain fully open. It may be appropriate to suspend some services.
  • Shows and concerts with more than 500 attendees should be cancelled.
  • Other events such as open days and job fairs should be postponed.
  • Large public lectures and community events should be cancelled.
  • Some larger societies should consider postponing events or limiting attendee numbers.

Useful links 

Update: 16 March 2020

Extension of existing travel restrictions

We have more information now available about how the virus works and is transmitted, and we’re learning lessons from how other countries have managed outbreaks.

The New Zealand government is stepping up protective measures to keep individuals, families and our communities safe and healthy in the current global environment through upgraded border control measures.

From 23:59 Sunday 15 March 2020:

  • Travel restrictions remain in place for people arriving from or who have been in mainland China and Iran over the prior 14 days. (Category 1A countries)
  • In addition, all travellers coming from all parts of the world, except parts of the Pacific, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in New Zealand. This also includes Australia and French Polynesia. (Category 1B countries)
  • All travellers coming from the following parts of the Pacific will be required to self-isolate if they show symptoms, within 14 days of arrival. This includes all Pacific Islands Forum members (except French Polynesia, category 1B), Associate Member Tokelau, and Observer Wallis and Futuna.’ (Category 2).

Review period is 16 days initially (Tues 24 March) then 14 days thereafter.

We advise students, their families and whānau, and providers to keep updated on education developments through the Ministry of Education’s website.

For health advice, please refer to the Ministry of Health’s website.

We will continue to work with you to support your students as the COVID-19 situation develops. If you have concerns or are aware of problems being raised by students, we encourage you to continue to raise these with the relevant agencies.

Useful links 

Update: 28 February 2020

Extension of existing travel restrictions

You will be aware that there continues to be a high degree of uncertainty around the development and spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Countries around the world are continually reviewing their response to the virus.

It is in this context that the Government has announced that it will not be implementing an exemption from travel restrictions for students in China who had intended to study in New Zealand.

The Government has also announced the addition of a second country to the restriction list – Iran. For further information on how this affects travellers, see the Ministry of Health’s website.

We appreciate that universities in particular have put some considerable effort into setting out a case for exempting their students from the current travel restrictions.

On balance the Government has decided that such an exemption should not be approved at this time because of the most recent increased international uncertainty.

We acknowledge your efforts to support solutions for your students who have to study outside the country, and we will continue to support you in this. We know that tertiary providers are working on a number of distance learning solutions and we can provide support.

We also know that some of your students need assistance with visa issues.

If students or parents have visa-related questions, they should check Immigration New Zealand, which provides updates on the visa situation through its website.

Collectively, these measures will support the welfare of these students and allow them to successfully enter, settle and study in New Zealand as soon as possible.

We are also aware that some students are having problems with accommodation. We will continue to advise students to raise concerns directly with their school or tertiary provider in the first instance.

If tertiary students believe their concerns have not been adequately addressed, they can contact the Tertiary Education Commission. Even if the TEC can’t resolve their issue, it can provide support and help direct concerns to the appropriate place. Students can contact the TEC by calling 0800 601 302 or emailing complaints@tec.govt.nz

We advise students, their families and whānau, and providers to keep updated on education developments through the Ministry of Education’s website.

For health advice, please refer to the Ministry of Health’s website.

We will continue to work with you to support your students as the COVID-19 situation develops. If you have concerns or are aware of problems being raised by students, we encourage you to continue to raise these with the relevant agencies.

Update: 26 February 2020

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus): Extension of the existing travel restrictions to 3 March

The Prime Minister confirmed in an announcement on Monday 24 February, the extension of existing travel restrictions which will now expire 11.59pm on Tuesday 3 March.

The Prime Minister also noted that government officials are investigating the possibility of exempting tertiary students coming here from China, from the current travel restrictions. We will continue to provide further information as it becomes available.

Update: 15 February 2020

The Minister of Health has extended the travel ban on people travelling from or through mainland China for a further eight day period.

The announcement today by the Minister of Health has been made based on the latest scientific and medical advice provided by relevant experts.  They have advised that the risk to public health in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands warrants an extension of the current border measures.  

The current temporary border measures will be retained for an additional eight day period expiring at 23:59 on Monday 24 Feb 2020.

The Ministry of Health has reiterated that these travel restrictions only apply to people travelling through mainland China in the last 14 days. There is no requirement for people travelling to New Zealand from places outside mainland China to have a ‘stay away’ period. 

Useful links

Update: 2 February 2020

The Ministry of Education, TEC, and NZQA are working together and all tertiary education organisations (TEOs) have been contacted with information about the coronavirus and additional border controls.

The Prime Minister made an announcement on February 2 that includes the following information concerning all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through mainland China:

"The Government is placing temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through mainland China to assist with the containment of the novel coronavirus and to protect New Zealand and the Pacific Islands from the disease.

"This will take effect from tomorrow and will be in place for up to 14 days. This position will be reviewed every 48 hours.

"Any foreign travellers who leave or transit through mainland China after 2 February 2020 (NZ time) will be refused entry to New Zealand.

"Any foreign travellers in transit to New Zealand on 2 February 2020 will be subject to enhanced screening on arrival but, pending clearance, will be granted entry to New Zealand.

"New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members, but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the country.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also raised its travel advice to New Zealanders for all of mainland China to 'Do not travel', the highest level.”

While there are no confirmed or suspected cases in New Zealand at the moment, the Ministry of Health continues to encourage a precautionary approach and a focus on good hygiene. Please err on the side of caution and be alert, not alarmed.

See the government announcement at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-zealand-restrict-travel-china-protect-against-coronavirus

Please continue to refer to the Ministry of Health website for the latest health information.

The health of students and staff is a priority. As always, anyone who is unwell should not be at work or studying at a tertiary provider. If you have any concerns, please contact Healthline at 0800 611 116 or call your GP. Healthline has translators and interpreters available 24/7 in 150 languages and they do have Mandarin and Cantonese speaking staff available.

Useful links