No protest, pipers or haggis – and the PM’s nuptials are off, too – but the govt is preparing to get kids back to school

The social upheaval caused by the pandemic and the government’s moving the nation to Covid Code Red this week is immeasurable.

Point of Order notes with dismay the grim toll, which includes the cancellations of the annual Waihopai Spy Base Protest in Marlborough (for the first time in three decades), the Burns Night Dinner at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and the Octagonal Day and Otago Centre pipe band contest in Dunedin

Oh – and The Team of Five Million will be denied the news and pictures we expected to adorn newspapers, magazines and our TV screens after Jacinda Ardern’s wedding to Clarke Gayford, an event which was due to take place in the next week or so at Gisborne.

The world was waiting for the news and pictures, too.

The Guardian reported:

Asked about her wedding cancellation, Ardern said: “Such is life. I am no different to, dare I say, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic. The most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they’re gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

Up to 100 vaccinated people can gather under a red alert but the prime minister said her wedding would not proceed in a restricted form.

“My wedding won’t be going ahead but I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic. And to anyone caught up in that scenario, I am so sorry. But we are all so resilient and I know we understand we are doing this for one another and it will help us carry on.”

The Guardian was among media which reported the wedding had been cancelled rather than postponed.

Maybe that’s the PM’s response to Gayford’s apology for “any confusion” he caused after speaking to a pharmacist about rapid antigen testing on behalf of a musician mate.

But while much seems to be going on  in the community, the Beehive has been remarkably subdued.

The one announcement we found today came from Chris Hipkins, speaking as Minister of Education

He announced 5,000 air cleaners have been ordered for New Zealand schools.

“As we know, along with vaccination, testing, good hygiene and physical distancing, good ventilation is important in minimising the risk of airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Chris Hipkins said.   

“I’ve heard that schools have done a good job keeping fresh air moving through their classrooms, but we know opening doors and windows to get fresh air flow won’t always be practical.

“We expect the first 500 air cleaners to arrive in March and the remaining 4,500 to be delivered by June. These will be used in targeted areas within some schools in the coming months.

“To help schools identify classrooms and other spaces which get good levels of fresh air flow and those that don’t, schools will receive a ventilation self-assessment toolkit with a portable CO2 monitor they can use to help identify areas of concern and the right approaches to improve ventilation.

“These 2,500 portable CO2 monitors are in addition to more than 8,000 Internal Environment Monitors which are already in, or will soon be deployed, in schools early this year.

“I ask any school with concerns about ventilation to reach out to the Ministry of Education for support.”

And does good science underpin this announcement?

It’s hard to say.

Hipkins referred to “early observations of a joint study between NIWA and the Ministry of Education”.

These support opening windows and doors as the best way to boost the flow of fresh air in classrooms, he said.

The study says good ventilation removes air from inside and replaces it with clean air from outside, preventing the build-up of potentially contaminated air. The level of CO2 in a space is a good indicator of the freshness of the air.

“This aligns with the advice and views of international experts – that is that there is no substitute for fresh air flow,” Chris Hipkins said.

“During the study there were days when opening doors and windows was less effective – for example when there was no outdoor breeze, or when it rained and schools were not able to open windows and doors as often.  We know there will be cases where schools need to supplement existing natural ventilation.”

It was important to keep children as safe as possible, Hipins said,

“… so in addition to the investment in portable air cleaners, the Ministry is also exploring simple systems to assist air quality and natural ventilation in schools.”

The sum involved in this “investment” was not specified.

Latest from the Beehive

5,000 portable air cleaners for schools on their way

As schools are preparing to return, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 5,000 air cleaners have been ordered for New Zealand schools.

One thought on “No protest, pipers or haggis – and the PM’s nuptials are off, too – but the govt is preparing to get kids back to school

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