Public Health Requirements for Tertiary Education Organisations at Alert Level 2

Overarching message: Leave home but in a safe way

There will be further opening up of activity during Alert Level 2, particularly in terms of travel, education, sport and recreational activity, retail and hospitality, and personal movement. But it is not business as usual. General public health and border measures remain largely unchanged from Level 3, to ensure our approach to contact tracing, testing, isolation and quarantine are maintained.

There is a specific set of public health control guidelines for Tertiary Education Organisation (TEO) that should be in place. These are outlined on the following page.

The significant changes for how TEOs can operate once we move from Level 3 to Level 2 are:

  • Physical distancing – people should continue to keep two metre physical distancing from those they do not know, with one metre physical distancing encouraged in other environments unless other mitigating measures are in place. In areas designated ‘controlled learning spaces’ or ‘other controlled environments’, where contact tracing and strict hygiene practices are in place, people should be encouraged and enabled to maintain physical distancing of one metre, where possible.
  • Gatherings – workplaces, educational facilities, and public and school transport are not considered gatherings. This means there are no restrictions on the number of students and staff on-site at a tertiary education facility, other than what normal health and safety principles would permit. TEOs should manage capacity of lectures, etc. to enable one metre physical distancing, where possible. Gatherings that are not directly education-related, such as speaking events open to the public, cultural events, social events, etc. should follow public health control measures that apply to that type of gathering, including any restrictions on the number of attendees.
  • Sports – sporting ground, tennis courts, gyms etc., may open. People should keep a two metre distance from people they do not know, and contact tracing should be in place where this is practical (i.e. where access can be restricted, such as in a gym). Contact sports and other close-contact activities can resume, provided appropriate public health control measures for Sports are in place.
  • Close-contact courses – courses that involve close-contact, such as training for hairdressers, beauty salons, physiotherapists, etc., are allowed to resume, provided this is conducted in a way that aligns with the specific public health control measures that apply to that occupation. This includes both those training in workplaces, and those training in simulated work environments; for example, a class of students using another student to practice cutting hair.
  • Bubbles – There is no bubble concept at Level 2, so there are no restrictions on groups of students mixing with others on site. However, students are still encouraged to keep two metre distancing from people they don’t know, and one metre distancing, where possible. Tertiary education staff are no longer restricted to interacting face-to-face with only one group of students.
  • Residential accommodation – residential accommodation such as Halls of Residence, Hostels, etc. may reopen to all students, but should ensure robust contact tracing measures are in place to record all students, staff, and others who enter a residence. Students may travel domestically to return to residential accommodation, in line with Ministry of Transport guidelines. No documentation (e.g. proof of residence) is required for domestic travel under Alert Level 2.

How Tertiary Education Organisations should be operating under Alert Level 2

Under Alert Level 2, all on-site activities at tertiary education facilities can resume, such as classes, lectures, labs, workshops, tutorials, noho, and meetings, provided the below public health control measures for TEOs are in place. TEOs should maintain their ability to comprehensively deliver courses remotely, as this may be necessary to help manage capacity and enable appropriate physical distancing on campus.

Students and staff who are at greater risk of getting a severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition, those who are pregnant, and those who are over 70, should be enabled to continue to learn and work remotely, but may go back to work as long as appropriate public health control measures are in place for them (see annex two).

Specific public health control measures for TEOs to be put in place are:

  • Contact tracing information should be collected and retained that identifies which students, staff (and any other visitors) have been in each ‘controlled learning space’ or ‘other controlled environment’ and at what time. A ‘controlled learning space’ may be a lecture theatre, a lab, a classroom, etc., while ‘other controlled environments’ may be a building or an outdoor site with perimeter control.
  • Physical distancing of two metres should be maintained where people do not know each other and where contact tracing measures are not in place. In areas designated ‘controlled learning spaces’ or ‘other controlled environments’, where contact tracing and strict hygiene practices are in place, people should be encouraged and enabled to maintain physical distancing of one metre, where possible.
  • Students and staff should remain at home if they are sick, have any COVID-19 symptoms, are in isolation, or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
  • Hand sanitiser should be available at the entry to classrooms, lecture theatres etc., and students and staff should ensure they are regularly washing and drying their hands.
  • Disinfect and clean all TEO facilities regularly, with a particular focus on any surfaces or items that are likely to come into frequent contact with different students. For example, desks, door handles, keyboards, workshop tools, etc. that multiple people are likely to touch should be disinfected as often as is practical. 
  • On-campuses businesses such as gyms, pharmacies, cafes, restaurant, etc. must operate in accordance with the public health control measures that apply to that type of business.
  • There is no specific size limit for education-related gatherings (lectures, classes, etc.) though TEOs should manage the capacity of all spaces (including lecture theatres) to ensure there is enough room for students and staff to maintain appropriate physical distancing (ideally one metre, where possible). This may mean that some larger lectures continue to be delivered online for some students.
  • Gatherings that are not directly education-related, such as speaking events open to the public, cultural events, social events, etc. should follow public health control measures that apply to that type of gathering, including any restrictions on the number of attendees.
  • Residential accommodation is a type of ‘other controlled environment’, and TEOs should therefore ensure robust contact tracing information is collected on all those who enter the premises (including any guests of residents). Strict hygiene and cleaning protocols should also be in place.
  • Social events with external visitors are not allowed within residential accommodation.  Hostels, halls and other residential accommodation may have social events involving people who are resident in that accommodation, but need to exercise restraint over the size and scale of these.  Students in residential accommodation may have a small number of family or close friends as visitors within accommodation, but TEOs need to ensure this is managed so as not to result in large gatherings taking place.
  • Workplace-based learning should be managed within the specific public health control measures that apply to that type of workplace.
  • Close-contact courses such as training for hairdressers, beauty salons, physiotherapists, etc., should operate in accordance with the public health control measures that apply to that occupation. This applies whether the training is conducted in the workplace, or on-site at a tertiary facility.
  • PPE is not required or recommended as necessary in any educational facility by the Public Health Service, except for in research facilities (where this would normal be required) and during other activities where PPE is specified as a public health control measure (such as for some close-contact work/training).

TEOs are responsible for ensuring the above measures are maintained at all their facilities/campuses. TEOs are not responsible for managing or monitoring activities of staff and student outside these facilities/campuses.

TEOs should aim to have multiple overlapping systems to support contact tracing; for example, sign-in/sign-out sheets, swipe access, utilisation of wireless hotspot data, etc.

Upon advice from the local medical officer of health, any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 must close on an individual or group basis, for as long as directed by that medical officer of health.

(A medical officer of health is typically a senior clinician at a DHB appointed by the Director-General of Health.)

However, this does not mean that the entire institution would necessarily need to close. The extent of the required closures would depend on the nature of the COVID-19 case, and may be limited to a single building or group of buildings, as required to ensure the risk of infection was managed. The decision on this should be made by the medical officer of health in consultation with the TEO.

We will continue to refine and update guidance for TEOs in line with any emerging evidence.

Additional information for TEOs

  • Annex one provides more detailed guidelines for TEOs on how to operate at Alert Level 2
  • Annex two provides a set of FAQs for TEOs under Alert Level 2.

Annex one: guidelines for Tertiary Education Organisations on how to operate at Alert Level 2

At every Alert Level, the following principles apply:

  • TEOs should maintain their ability to comprehensively deliver courses remotely, and should be in a position to transition to fully remote learning as soon as possible (if required).
  • If the Alert Level is lowered, TEOs may choose how best to transition their delivery and operations, as long as they are meeting the minimum new Alert Level requirements (e.g. TEOs may choose to continue with online delivery for an extended period, even if this is not required at the new Alert Level).
  • If the Alert Level is raised, TEOs should transition to the new requirements by the time the new Alert Level comes into effect.
  • To enable contact tracing in the event of a confirmed or probably COVID-19 case, TEOs should collect information on all staff, students, contractors etc., who are working, living, or visiting a tertiary education facility (including student accommodation), in line with the public health control measures appropriate for that Alert Level.  A log of this information may be requested by officials on short notice.
  • Any staff or student who exhibits symptoms of COVID19 should immediately contact the TEO where they work/study/live to let them know, along with their GP.
  • There should be stringent self-isolation of anyone displaying relevant symptoms of COVID-19, test positive for COVID-19, have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, or have been overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Organisations operating under any Alert Level should ensure that appropriate public health control measures for TEOs and Worksafe guidelines are in place before they resume operations. These requirements may differ depending on the Alert Level.

Detailed guidelines for TEOs on how to operate at Alert Level 2 [PDF, 678 KB]

Annex two: Frequently Asked Questions on how TEOs should operate under Alert Level 2

Can TEOs resume on-site classes, lectures, workshops, meetings etc. under Alert level 2?

Under Alert level 2, all on-site activities at tertiary education facilities can resume, such as classes, lectures, labs, workshops, tutorials, noho, and meetings, provided the necessary public health control measures for TEOs are in place. 

When will tertiary education facilities open?

Tertiary education facilities are able to open once we move to Alert Level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday 13 May. However, TEOs should only facilities once they are confident that they have the appropriate systems and process in place to open safely, in line with public health control measures for TEOs under Alert Level 2. 

In some situations, resuming normal lectures, workshops and other activities, may take happen over several days as the necessary systems and processes are put in place.

TEOs will keep in close contact with staff and students about which specific facilities and activities will be reopening, and when.

What does ‘contact tracing’ mean for a TEO?

Contact tracing information should be collected and retained that identifies which students and staff (and any other visitors) have been in a ‘controlled learning space’ or an ‘other controlled environment’ and at what time.

A controlled learning space could be any learning area where access can be effectively controlled and monitored. For example, a lecture theatre, a lab, a classroom etc. may each be considered a controlled learning space if all access in and out can be controlled and students and staff are likely to remain in that area for an extended period of time.

In these controlled learning spaces, it would be ideal to collect information on where specifically students and staff are located within the room (such as through a seating plan). This would allow for targeted identification of potential infections if a COVID-19 case is confirmed (e.g. those who were within ‘close proximity’ to the infected student). However, this may not be practical in some situations.

‘Other controlled environments’ could be a single building or block of connected buildings with a range of common areas inside, such as kitchens, lounges, bathrooms, etc., along with multiple labs or lecture theatres (each of which would be its own ‘controlled learning environment’). Other controlled environments also include residential accommodation, where access can be controlled and monitored.

TEOs are not expected to track all movements and interactions within ‘other controlled environments’ (e.g. which specific hallways, bathrooms, common areas people visited). But they should track those who enter and exit a controlled learning space within that area. TEOs should aim to have multiple overlapping systems to support contact tracing; for example, sign-in/sign-out sheets, swipe access, utilisation of wireless hotspot data, etc.

Contact tracing is not required for ‘uncontrolled environments’ where access cannot be practically controlled and monitored (e.g. outdoors on TEO campuses). In these uncontrolled environments where collecting contract tracing information is not possible, people should maintain at least one metre physical distance, and two metres from people they do not know.

For areas where robust contact tracing would be impractical and where maintaining physical distance may be difficult, TEOs may wish to completely close off these particular areas; for example, some indoor thoroughfares.

TEOs will determine how to best manage the collection of contact tracing information within their controlled learning spaces and other controlled environments. TEOs can use either manual or electronic processes or a combination of these, as long as the information can quickly be made available to the Ministry of Health, District Health Board, or other relevant authority if required to enable a contact tracing process to begin. TEOs will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy and completeness of this contact tracing information. 

What are the public health control measures that apply to residential accommodation?

Residential accommodation is considered a type of ‘other controlled environment’.  Therefore, contract tracing information should be collected and retained that identifies all students, staff, and visitors that enter a residential accommodation facility. Strict hygiene and cleaning protocols should also be in place.

Maintaining “bubbles” is no longer required, and therefore student accommodation providers no longer need to manage their facilities on this basis. Common spaces, shared recreation rooms, kitchens etc. may all be open.

Social events with external visitors are not allowed within residential accommodation.  Hostels, halls and other residential accommodation may have social events involving people who are resident in that accommodation, but need to exercise restraint over the size and scale of these.  Students in residential accommodation may have a small number of family or close friends as visitors within accommodation, but TEOs need to ensure this is managed so as not to result in large gatherings taking place.

Tertiary accommodation providers should continue to adhere to the:

  • Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) Code of Practice; and the
  • The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016.

Can students travel back to their student accommodation?

Yes. Under Alert Level 2, there are no restrictions on domestic travel (including inter-regional travel), though people are advised to ‘travel safely’.  Students needing to relocate back to their student accommodation (whether that’s a private flat or a tertiary accommodation such as a Halls of Residence) may do so.

All travel should be conducted in line with guidelines from the Ministry of Transport. For example, people should not travel if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, awaiting a test, or if they are required to self-isolate. No documentation (e.g. proof of residence) is required for domestic travel under Alert Level 2.

What are the public health control measures that apply to businesses operating on a tertiary campus?

On-site businesses such as bookshops, pharmacies, dairies, cafes, restaurants, etc. are not considered as a type of ‘other controlled environment’ and the TEO is therefore not responsible for monitoring access to these. However, these on-site businesses should implement all required public health control measures that apply to their specific type of business.

A TEO may decide to close (or restrict the activities of) an on-site business, such as a bar, if the behaviour of those visiting that business put at risk the ability of the business and/or TEO to comply with the required public health control measures.

Is physical distancing still required under Alert Level 2?

People should keep two metres distance from those they do not know, and are encouraged to keep one metre distance in other environments, unless other mitigating measures are in place.

In areas designated ‘controlled learning spaces’ or ‘other controlled environments’, where contact tracing and strict hygiene practices are in place, people should still be encouraged and enabled to maintain physical distancing of one metre, where possible.

To enable physical distancing, TEOs should consider the appropriate capacity for different areas, such as lecture theatres. This may mean that some lectures continue to be delivered online for some students.

TEOs may wish to stagger the timing of large lectures taking place in the same building to enable physical distancing of one metre in hallways, foyers etc. as students enter and exit the building. TEOs may also want to look at other ways of managing crowds and reducing congestion, such as asking students not to loiter near doorways or in hallways.

Can close-contact training resume?

Close contact services like hairdressers, beauty salons, and physiotherapists are allowed to open under Alert Level 2.   However, because these businesses require close contact, they will need to make sure that they are taking specific measures to manage public health risks, in particular infection prevention and control, and recording information for contact tracing. Specific guidance is being prepared by industry and government in relation to these sectors.

TEOs that deliver courses for these close-contact services are allowed to resume hands-on training, but should ensure they comply with the specific measures to manage public health control measures agreed by government and the relevant industry.  This includes both those training in workplaces, and those training in simulated work environments (for example, a class of students using another student to practice cutting hair). Flight training may also resume, but should follow the public health control measures that apply to the aviation sector.

Can large lectures/classes resume?

Educational facilities are technically not considered ‘gatherings’.  There is therefore no specific size limit for education-related gatherings (lectures, classes, etc.) though TEOs should manage the capacity of all spaces (including lecture theatres) to ensure there is enough room for students and staff to maintain appropriate physical distancing (ideally one metre, where possible).  This may mean that some larger lectures continue to be delivered online for some students.

Other gatherings that are not directly education-related, such as speaking events open to the public, cultural events, social events, etc. should follow public health control measures that apply to that type of gathering, including any restrictions on the number of attendees.

What public health control measures apply to workplace-based learning?

Workplace-based learning can resume for most businesses, and should be managed within the public health control measures that apply to that workplace.

Can all students and staff attend on-site activities under Alert level 2?

Yes, where classes, workshops, etc. have resumed, students and staff may attend these (subject to any capacity restrictions that TEOs may put in place).

However, students and staff who are at greater risk of getting a severe illness from COVID-19 should discuss with their tertiary education provider whether they can safely attend on-site activities, or whether they should continue teaching/learning remotely.  These students and staff may attend on-site activities, but only if they feel comfortable with this. TEOs should retain online and remote capability to support face to face learning.

Students or staff should not go on-site if they are sick, have any COVID-19 symptoms, are in isolation, or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

Furthermore, in some situations, TEOs may decide to limit the size and frequency of some classes, for example, to allow for the recommended one metre distancing between students and staff.

What about students and staff who have existing conditions, are pregnant, or are over 70?

At Alert level 2, all students and staff who are at greater risk of getting a severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition, those who are pregnant, and those who are over 70 should be enabled to continue to learn and work remotely, but may go back to work as long as appropriate public health control measures are in place for them.. TEOs should maintain their ability to comprehensively deliver courses remotely.

These staff and students may attend on-site activities if appropriate public health control measures can be put in place for them and they feel comfortable returning to on-site activities. Additional public health control measures could include maintaining physical distancing of more than one metre between the ‘at risk’ person and others, which is not technically required in controlled environments where contract tracing is in place.

Students and staff should discuss and agree with their provider whether additional adequate public health control measures can be put in place. If not, these students/staff should be enabled to continue to learn/work remotely. The discussions should be ongoing, as, for example, the presence of one or more COVID-19 cases at the institution or in the region may lead to learning and teaching remotely again for a period in consultation with the medical officer of health.

Staff and students should also work with their GP or specialist if they need further help understanding their level of risk during Alert Level 2 and how best to stay healthy.

If a student is unable to attend on-site activities and also unable to learn remotely, then the TEO should consider options for taking into consideration these special circumstances that have impacted on a student’s ability to study.

Similarly, if a staff member is unable to attend on-site activities and also unable to teach remotely, then the TEO should discuss with them what leave and pay arrangements will apply.

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