Coronavirus: Teachers call for schools to be shut immediately

Teachers are urging the Government to place the country on alert level four, as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus rises.

The Ministry of Health announced on Sunday there were a further 14 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, bringing the total to 66.

There were also four probable cases.

The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand has written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling for all schools to be shut, saying it's the only way to keep students and staff safe.

"We have been communicating with teachers over the weekend and we've listened to their concerns," wrote the council's chief executive Lesley Hoskin.

"They want to support you and Aotearoa to flatten the curve. However, they want you to know, if you do not move now, they cannot see how they can protect their learners, themselves nor their loved ones at home.

"As the voice of teachers, the council, on behalf of all teachers, implores you to act now and to move to alert level four, closing early childhood centres and schools.

"The council supports you and your leadership of Aotearoa, but please - help us keep our tamariki and rangatahi safe. We can only do that, if you allow us to keep ourselves and our loved ones, safe too."

The Government's four-stage alert level system was implemented by the Government on Saturday.

Level one is a warning to prepare. It is issued when COVID-19 is present but contained. Level two - the country's current level - was issued after an increase in imported cases and cases transmitted within households. The alert suggests COVID-19 is contained but that risk of community transmission is growing. 

Level three is the next level that could apply to Kiwis. It would come into effect if authorities believed that there is a heightened risk that the illness is no longer contained.

Level four - the highest level - would be activated if it is likely COVID-19 is not contained nationally or at a local level. There would need to be widespread community transmission for this to be activated and all people would need to stay at home. All education facilities and non-essential businesses would be closed, supplies rationed and travel severely limited. 

Supermarkets and essential services would remain open at all levels of alert, Ardern said on Saturday.

Following the Government's announcement of the alert system many have called for the level to be raised to four immediately.  

As well as the open letter from the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, health workers have also launched a petition calling for a nationwide lockdown.

The letter from the Teaching Council came after more schools were forced to close after returning positive COVID-19 tests.

Auckland's Glendowie College confirmed on Sunday it would be closing for 72 hours after a student was confirmed to have coronavirus.  

The school's principal Richard Dykes said the school was acting swiftly following the positive result.

"We've been working with the ministry and the public health service to notify parents, we're going to start tracking, tracing students and be in touch with all close contacts," Dykes told Newshub.

Earlier on Sunday, Marist College for Girls, also in Auckland, was forced to close for 72 hours after a staff member tested positive. Both the infected person and their household are in self-isolation, and the school is currently trying to track and trace all close contacts. 

Mt Roskill Grammar School also reported that a parent of a student had tested positive after arriving from Europe earlier this month.

The school was seeking further information from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, it said in a letter to parents on Sunday.