Advice for Alert Level 1

Kia ora, over the past week we have received several calls from early childhood centres about large numbers of children staying home due to runny noses and coughs, along with questions about the need for COVID-19 testing and exclusion periods.

We realise there is a huge amount of information and recommendations available on COVID-19, at times with mixed messages. Below you will find some clear guidance around managing children and staff with cold and flu symptoms.

Runny noses and coughs can be very normal at this time, however we need to manage these differently due to Alert Level 1 recommendations, which ask us all to adopt public health measures and increase hygiene habits. This includes staying home if you or your child is unwell with COVID-like symptoms.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to common illnesses such as a cold or flu. A person may have one or more of the following:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38˚C)
  • shortness of breath
  • a sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell.

If a person has any of the above symptoms they should stay home and call Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or their doctor. This may result in being advised to get tested for COVID-19.

A doctor can provide a diagnosis for an unwell child or staff member. It is important that the doctor is informed that the child attends an early childhood service, or is a staff member at a service. The doctor can then determine if they require a COVID-19 test or if their symptoms are related to asthma, hay fever, allergies, an ear infection or another acute or chronic condition that have similar symptoms to COVID-19, but do not pose an infection risk to other children and staff. The doctor can provide a medical certificate that states that the child or staff member does not have an infectious illness. Alongside a diagnosis the child must be well, and if returning with a slight runny nose or cough they must be able to manage wiping their nose properly, cough into their elbow, and participate fully in all centre activities, and meets the criteria of your illness policy.

If a child or staff member becomes unwell with one of the above symptoms while at the centre, there should always be a conversation with them or the child’s caregiver to determine whether there is another explanation for the symptoms. Refer to your health care plans and what you know about this child, it may mean they do not need to go home.

Keeping your community healthy

While our website is being regularly updated with education-related content, the Ministry of Health is the Government agency leading the response to COVID-19 and should be your first port of call for health and status information: Ministry of Health website

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Coronavirus Explained! (for kids)

Last updated 19 June 2020.