Schools and winter illnesses

It is only May which is still autumn, but winter illnesses are already causing problems for schools. Many teachers are sick and there are sometimes not enough relief teachers to cover for them.

Yesterday Timaru’s South School closed for the day because ten of its staff were sick and there was only one reliever available. Similarly, there were four teachers sick at Nelson Intermediate but only three relievers could be found, so students from one class were sent to other classes. Other schools in Nelson also had a lot of teachers away sick: three of the seven teachers at Hampden Street School tested positive for Covid, and 20 of Nayland College’s 100 teachers were sick on Monday. Cromwell College in Otago rostered year 12 students home on Monday as there were so many staff away unwell. Last Thursday Mt Cook School in Wellington asked parents to keep their children at home because half of its teachers were sick with Covid and there were not enough relievers.

Doctors around the country are reporting a rise in rates of winter illnesses, including flu and Covid19. Rates of calls to Healthline for flu-like illness increased in the week ending 12 May, although this was below the rate at the same time last year. For Covid19, there were 6146 cases reported in the week ending 19 May, up from 3922 the previous week. However, this is only the number of cases who have reported the result of the RAT test, so the number may in fact be higher. There were 242 people in hospital, up from 152 people the week earlier. Another illness circulating at the moment is RSV, which is like a cold but can be very serious for babies, young children and older adults.

It is still recommended that people who feel unwell test for Covid19. If the test is positive, Health New Zealand recommends that people isolate for at least five days, even if their symptoms are mild. It also recommends that those who have a cold or flu should rest at home and drink plenty of fluids.


relief teacher/ reliever – a teacher who replaces another teacher who is sick or

roster … home – if students are rostered home, their year group is told not to come to school on a specific day

circulating – going around

RSV – respiratory syncytial virus. Note: a respiratory virus affects breathing or your lungs

symptom – something wrong with your body or mind that shows you have an illness

fluids – drinks such as water or juice