Waikato Univ makes self-isolate mandatory for China returning staff

New Zealand has so far escaped any positive case of Noval Coronavirus, but with schools just opening and tertiary providers getting ready for the start of a new semester and expected influx of overseas students, the likelihood of a imported case is still high.

Several others are also currently returning to homestay accommodation or to hostels and schools.

Will NZ remain safe from Coronavirus?
Will NZ remain safe from Coronavirus?

Confirmed cases of the virus have already been identified in Australia, the USA, Canada, France, Germany and 18 other countries, including China and first death outside of China has also been reported.

Situation is rapidly evolving internationally with travel restrictions having been imposed by several countries, but New Zealand is still weighing its options.

Ministry of Education’s instructions to educational institutes is to advice students/staff to ‘err on the side of caution’ and stay home if they are unwell.

Most educational institutes have accordingly notified a voluntary seven days stay-home option for those returning from any province of China, and 14-days from Hubei or Wuhan provinces.

The University of Waikato, too, is taking precautions seriously and has gone one step further than other providers.

Staff members who have travelled to any other parts of China are being asked to self-isolate for seven days following their arrival back into the country.  

In a statement to NewsViews this morning, a spokesperson of Waikato University confirmed that such staff “will not come back to campus until seven days have elapsed since they arrived in NZ.”

The university spokesperson has also reassured, “We are continuing to monitor the situation…Staff and student wellbeing continues to be at the forefront during this time…Asking staff who have travelled from China recently to stay away from campus for a minimum of seven days is an additional precautionary measure we have currently taken.”

Waikato University has also already imposed restrictions on all non-essential staff travel to China.

The university has convened a strategic response group to advice students/ staff with regular updates and has also put plans in place for those who may be delayed by the travel disruptions in China to ensure they can still start the academic year.

“For students, if you are concerned about missing any classes…we have procedures to support you,” the university says.

The Rotouna Junior & Senior High Schools like other schools, has advised parents to follow the direction from the Education Ministry “to encourage (such) students and their families…to err on the side of caution”. However, it adds, “you can attend school” if there are no symptoms of illness.

Rototuna school

Some of the parents that NewsViews spoke to, however, were anxious because of the fear some students who are just returning from China after the end of their New Year festivities, and start of terms here, may not chose to follow this advice.

“This is then not mandatory,” says a worried local resident whose 6-year-old goes to a primary school.

“How are the schools going to find out?” she asks.


Another concerned parent has asked the RJSH on their FB page: “What precautions are in place for students or staff returning from mainland China?”

In 2018, there were 110,790 students In 781 education providers from China studying in NZ, and by end of 2019, China accounted for 50 to 60 per cent of New Zealand’s 12,400 school-level overseas students last year, according to Ministry of Education figures.

As New Zealand’s borders are still open and with an incubation period of up to 14 days, there is a risk that some people entering New Zealand from China may be infected even though they are not displaying any symptoms.

Therefore, to “err on the side of caution’ and stay home, seems to be the best advice.