Govt to provide masks for students, funding for ventilation

Source: 1News

There are 50 child-sized masks available to every Year 4 to 7 student in the country from now until the end of the year, the Government has announced.

Children in classroom - stock image.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said it was part of a range of strategies being put in place that could help schools reduce the risk of winter illnesses spreading.

She said the Ministry of Education could supply 10 million special child-sized masks and planned to have them ready to send to schools and kura at the start of Term 3.

That's in addition to adult-sized masks that were offered to all students from Year 8 and up, she said.

"Around 20,000-30,000 masks are already being distributed to students and staff every week across the country."

Schools would also be given extra funding to help with ventilation over winter.

Tinetti said $3.6 million would be allocated to schools, kura and teen parent units to encourage them to "maintain healthy levels of heating and ventilation to help reduce colds, flu and Covid from spreading". Meanwhile, $1.4 million would go to centre-based early childhood services.

The amount schools could get was between $200 and $4000, depending on their size. Tinetti said that would mean schools would get a 5% top-up on their annual heat, light and water funding allocations.

“Good ventilation over winter can lead to some heat loss and higher heating bills. The winter energy payments will help reassure schools and services that they can balance heating and ventilation, without unaffordable energy bills," she said.

“In addition, the Government has already provided every school in New Zealand with CO2 monitors to help them identify spaces that aren’t well-ventilated and bought 5000 air cleaners to help improve the ventilation in these areas. Every school has been given at least one air cleaner to help supplement natural ventilation this winter."

It comes as the Government announced on Thursday it was keeping the country at the Orange traffic light setting as health services continued to face increased demand because of Covid-19 and winter illnesses like the flu.

On Monday, eligibility criteria for free flu vaccines were extended to children aged 3 to 12 after a high number of pre-schoolers were hospitalised with influenza.

In February, the Government said it would distribute 3.8 million medical grade masks for use in schools at Year 4 and above.

Under the Orange traffic light setting, face masks are only "encouraged" inside schools, rather than mandated.

In April, more than 150 experts and doctors called for mask mandates to be reintroduced in schools during winter to stop infection rates from being "allowed to run rampant".