Extend the border restrictions (now done) -Temporarily close NZ schools and universities

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This petition is requesting that the Government extend the border restrictions for China and Iran to all countries with Covid-19 established and that schools and universities are closed temporarily while this virus is brought under control and that they make alternative arrangements for pupils/students to learn from home. We are also requesting the government look at gathering numbers at events and in organisations/institutions and increasing social distancing policies as what is being done in the countries with this widespread now to stop it spreading is what we need to do to stop it here before this virus that is spreading while it is unseen gets a lot worse here.

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Update: On the 19th of March the government announced that to try and keep any more cases of covid-19 from being brought into NZ the borders would be shut to non-citizens and non-residents (with exceptions for the children, partners and legal guardians of NZ citizens or residents). In light of the government’s decision to do this, the petition now no longer needs to focus on that issue as long as the borders are shut and is now focusing on the second part of the petition regarding temporarily closing NZ schools and universities. At the moment the government have said they are not closing the schools, though there are a lot of parents who are understandably keeping their children home to protect them from the increased risk of contracting covid-19 that a school or other similar environment would have. With the public libraries in Auckland having been shut on the 20th of March, the government are well aware of the risk posed by schools, as schools have more of the risk factors for passing this virus on.

In the absence of a government decision to close the schools and universities, it is still something that parents and students can have some influence in by refraining from sending their children to school or in the cases of students staying back from university until we see how the progress of this virus continues in NZ.

The government have mentioned issues with this like looking after the children of health workers, which should certainly be a priority, meaning that if schools close that it would create problems for health workers with children being able to go to work where they will be needed. With the amount of people that will be off work, it wouldn’t be hard to provide alternative arrangements for this. It would also decrease the chance of one of the children of a health worker catching this and spreading it to the other children of health workers and then onto more health workers.

The government have also mentioned the approach Taiwan and Singapore have taken didn’t include closing down the schools, neither did Italy, France, Spain or Britain initially and we know what is now happening in Europe. The success at having a slow increase in cases is not down to keeping schools open. It would be more down to upbringing and general hygiene (covering mouth when coughing and sneezing, actually practicing social distancing), proper quarantining in a hospital facility to prevent spread and very high levels of testing people for this.

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On Saturday the government announced that all people entering the country (not including the pacific islands) are now required to self isolate and self isolation has now been made mandatory, this is much better than before the announcement where people were still allowed to come in completely unrestricted from places like Spain, France, Germany and other countries where the virus is not only established and consistently spreading, but are either countries that are shutting down or on the way to being shut down very soon.

This will help but there are still problems with this.
It is being policed from what we can see to a degree, but there are still flaws with this and it is still leaving us open to more and more people bringing the virus in and giving us more and more starting points for the virus to spread from, which will make it harder and harder to contain and mean it will spread much faster, should we not be able to stop the starting points from spreading.

Some of the issues are that the people entering the country, once they have shown that they have a self isolation plan, are still able to make their way there on public transport, wait in a bus station, stop off in a mall or supermarket and come into contact with uninfected people here and given how widespread it is now in some of these countries and given that experts in this are saying that the real figures for infections in a country is about 10-20 times the official confirmed cases, there is a very high chance we are going to get multiple people who come here who have it and are among the public for a time risking spreading this.

The economic implications for making the self isolation period mandatory are estimated to cause a significant drop in revenue for a number of sectors over the coming months, to extend the restrictions currently on China and Iran across the board would mean similar economic difficulties for those sectors, but if done in time would still mean we would have a local economy that would suffer if this spreads like it has in some countries who were too late to act.

The government have missed a number of opportunities on this and delayed measures that if placed in time would have meant that the virus would still not have arrived here, given the head start we were given in this it was entirely possible.

In a previous petition (https://www.change.org/Covid-19-petition) asking the government to extend the border restrictions to include countries with established and consistently spreading Covid-19, on the 23rd of February an update was made asking the government to include Iran and Italy in the NZ border restrictions, two and three days later the first infected people with Covid-19 entered the country with two of them between them taking two domestic flights and attending a sell out concert in our biggest city.
If the government had done what was asked in the petition when it became obvious to everyone involved with the petition, the confirmed cases either wouldn't have come into the country or they would have been required to self isolate which would have been mandatory.
It was obvious what needed to be done in time.

The government’s recent announcements are better than before and will slow down the virus compared to the unrestricted entry for people from places like Europe, but this way it will spread and grow and it can still get out of control. The things the government are asking people to do to stop the spread look good in an announcement, but as we can see people are still not doing what they are supposed to do with the self isolation on top of what is mentioned above about the people coming in before they get to self isolation.
The amount of people who myself and others have seen coughing and sneezing into the air even days after the announcement and all the advice about general hygiene is extremely alarming.

On the 17th of March it was announced that a pupil at school in Dunedin has tested positive for the virus and the school will shut for two days to be cleaned. This is just the beginning of spread in schools if the government don’t take action here. Without action taken to stop this spreading, it’s very likely this is going to start spreading in universities as well, if it hasn’t already. 

The boy has been around other pupils and there is every chance given that pupils are normally in multiple classrooms throughout the day sitting next to different people in the different classes on top of sharing numerous facilities like school desks, seats, school toilets and so on (for one it is known that public/shared toilets are a means for this virus to spread, as the virus is also passed on in urine and when a toilet is flushed small droplets of water in which the virus is present are propelled into the air, which can then be breathed in by those present), that this has spread to more than one other pupil at the school.
If it has spread, it will mean that the parents of infected children will be exposed with a high chance of contracting this and then potentially passing this on to work colleagues and other contacts and if the school is left open more children will be infected by the ones already infected and more parents will be exposed.

Schools are one of the main places that cause community spread and given that this specific virus can be harder to spot in children, it is dangerous to keep the schools open here now, otherwise it will spread via the community and then we'll have a situation like overseas where countries have lost control of this, which we still don't at this point right now (which won't last long at all). Modern technology through the internet means that school children will still be able to have access to lessons at school. Universities are also somewhere where this can spread rapidly and given students in Dunedin near the school that had the confirmed case, had a mass gathering despite the risk of it spreading and were seen making fun of the current risk of contracting this more needs to be done there as well.

There are a couple of other things that have gone on in this that need to be mentioned.

One is that we were told by experts and scientists from numerous countries who were relaying all the latest information from doctors in countries over the world that were dealing with outbreaks there, that the virus was spreading before symptoms show https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-asia-china-51254523, which was a number of months ago and the media did report this to us, but the information we were getting from the government, the WHO and the media went in a different direction and was that it doesn’t spread before symptoms show and to just wash your hands and to not be more than 1.5m close to someone for 15 min or over. The experts were still saying that it can spread before symptoms show.
There were also reports that the virus was partially airborne.

We have now been told that it does spread before symptoms show and that it ‘mostly spreads before symptoms show’
https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-mostly-by-people-showing-no-symptoms-european-scientists.html which means that the initial advice given will have helped the spread and the government at best would have known about what the experts were saying about this spreading before symptoms show.

The other thing we need to mention here is that NZ ‘experts’ have been saying that we didn’t need to do certain things because there was no evidence of community spread yet.
What they didn’t say though is that there was no way to see if there was community spread to get the evidence because the criteria for testing meant that only those who have been overseas and had clear symptoms, had contact with someone who had been overseas who had covid-19 and were showing symptoms or were health workers with symptoms would be tested with many reports of people who were showing symptoms being told they can’t be tested.
The government have now announced that they are going to start testing properly to see how many cases there ‘really are’ in NZ which is now concerning.

We need to stop the delays and actions that sound good in announcements but have been done too late to make the most of them and the massive head start we had in this given our advantageous position of geographical isolation and start being ahead of this virus and doing the things that we’ve seen need to be done in time for it to work.