Otago Polytechnic

Coronavirus FAQs 

We know there is a lot of information about coronavirus and we know that many of you will have lots of questions. Below are some frequently-asked questions. These are divided into the following sections:

  • General questions 
  • Travel ban questions 
  • Programme / start date questions 
  • Self-isolation questions 
  • Campus life / Student welfare questions 
  • Contact and support questions  

+ General questions 

Q1. How worried should I be? 

  • Your chances of catching the coronavirus in New Zealand are very low. 
  • It is highly unlikely you will catch the virus:
    • walking down the street 
    • shopping in a supermarket, or 
    • by using public transport. 
  • Coronavirus is slightly more infections than the flu. You are only likely to catch it if you are close to someone with the virus. Most people catch the virus from someone at home, a close workmate or someone they spend time with. 
  • People will not be moving around the community if they are suspected of having the virus - they will be in isolation. Their family and anyone they may have infected will also be asked to stay at home. 

Q2. How serious is coronavirus?  

  • People are being infected, mainly in China, but only a very small number have died. 
  • Most people have a mild illness. 
  • People of all ages are being infected, but older people and those with existing medical conditions seem most likely to get seriously ill. 

Q3. There's so many stories out there, I don't know what to believe. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that there is a lot of 'misinformation' in the media and that this is leading to confusion, stigmatisation, hysteria and, worst of all, xenophobia. 

If you are searching for information and updates, two reputable websites we would recommend are:

Otago Polytechnic is an inclusive and welcoming organisation. 

As individuals, we all need to: 

  • ensure that we fact check any content before sharing it on social media channels
  • not be biased in our opinions and beliefs about who might have the virus
  • not treat individuals from particular cultures any differently
  • not panic 
  • act responsibly and follow any Government guidelines
  • keep things in perspective and bear in mind that: 
    • most people who get this illness do not die 
    • for those in New Zealand there is almost zero chance of them contracting 2019nCoV
  • be kind and supportive of each other. 

Let's be part of the solution to tackle misinformation and bias. 

Q4. What are the symptoms of coronavirus? 

Symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness similar to influenza (flu). This includes: 

  • Fever, and  
  • Respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.   

Q5. What can I do to help keep myself well? 

The following advice is the best possible way you can keep yourself healthy and protect yourself from catching the virus (just as you would for the flu): 

  • Wash hands thoroughly (at least 20 seconds) with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser. 
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue (rather than onto your hands), and then put the used tissue straight into the rubbish and wash your hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough. 
  • Wear a mask only if you are coughing and sneezing (washing your hands often and covering coughs and sneezes will do more to protect you from the virus than a mask). 
  • If you are unwell, stay away from class and remain at home. If you live in a hall of residence or flat, let your Resident Advisor or your flatmates know you are unwell - just as you would for other illnesses. 
  • If you are sharing food, use utensils to serve the food and keep your personal spoon, fork or chopsticks separate to avoid transmission through saliva. 
  • And, just as at all other times, keep yourself as fit and healthy as you can by:
    • exercising regularly
    • getting plenty of sleep
    • eating well and drinking lots of water, and
    • avoid alcohol and smoking. 

Q6. What should I do if I think I have the virus? 

If you have flu-like symptoms, do one of the following:  

  • Call Healthline 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 from outside of NZ)or  
  • Call Student Health based in Dunedin (03) 479 6082, or 
  • Call your GP for medical advice. 

Please be ready to tell them about your recent travel history and be aware that they may ask you to have a coronavirus test.      

Please do not attend in person – always call first. This will help to avoid the spread of illness.    

+ Travel ban questions 

Q7. I'm meant to be coming from, or via mainland China, to study at Otago Polytechnic but the Government have just banned entry into NZ. 

a) What does this mean for my visa? 

From the latest information from Immigration NZ (INZ), international students who now can’t enter New Zealand due to travel restrictions will need to apply for a new visa (if you can’t enter before the first date on your visa).  

For specific coronavirus-related immigration enquiries, please contact the Government’s Immigration Contact Centre on 0508 225 288 (within NZ) or + 64 9 952 1679 (outside NZ).  

b) Will I have to pay for this new visa application?  

Immigration NZ are currently considering whether applicants who cannot travel to New Zealand to undertake study as planned will be required to pay for a new application. More information will be provided on the INZ website once decisions are made. 

c) What does this mean for my programme? Can I still study with you? 

Yes, you will still be able to study with us but we may need to work with you on when you will start. This will change depending on the programme you are going to be studying with us. 

It may be that we need to defer your study until the next intake. Defer simply means that you start at a later time. We will work with any student who this applies to.  

d) What does this mean for my flights and travel insurance?  

Please work with your travel agent, agent and insurance provider on what your individual situation means.  

Q8. The New Zealand Government have said that this travel ban is in place for 14 days from 2 Feb 2020 and that this will be reviewed every 2 days. But what happens if they extend the travel ban for longer than two weeks? What should I do?  

If the travel ban is extended, the same information will apply and we’ll keep updating our communications and webpage according to Government guidelines. We’ll continue to work with any affected students in terms of managing what this means for your study.  

+ Programme / start date questions 

Q9. I’m a new student coming to Dunedin. Travel restrictions and/or the self-isolation period mean I will miss the start of my programme. How much class can I miss before I’ll need to defer my study until the following semester?  

This will vary depending on your programme of study.   

Each situation will need to be treated on a case-by-case basis. We’ll need to work with your Programme Leader to fully understand what the situation means for you.   

Please make contact with us (via Student Support) so we can work with you on this.  

Please be aware that if you do need to defer, you will also need to reapply for a student visa. Please see Q7a above for more information.   

Q10. I’m a returning student coming to Dunedin. Travel restrictions and/or the self-isolation period mean I will miss the start of my programme. How much class can I miss before I’ll need to defer my study until the following semester? 

This will vary depending on your programme of study.   

Each situation will need to be treated on a case-by-case basis. We’ll need to work with your Programme Leader to fully understand what the situation means for you.   

Please make contact with us (via Student Support) so we can work with you on this.  

Please be aware that if you do need to defer, you will also need to reapply for a student visa. Please see Q7a above for more information.   

Q11. I’m a new student coming to Auckland. Travel restrictions and/or the self-isolation period mean I will miss Orientation. Will I need to defer my study to the next study block? (Please note: Defer means starting at a later date).  

Please contact our Student Support team in Auckland to advise that you will not be able to arrive in time for Orientation so they can work with you on what this means. 

Q12. I’m a returning student coming to Auckland. Travel restrictions and/or the self-isolation period mean I will miss the start of the study block? Will I need to defer my study to the next study block? (Please note: Defer means starting at a later date).  

Please contact our Student Support team in Auckland to advise that you will not be able to arrive in time for the start of the study block. They can then work with you on what this means. 

+ Self-isolation questions 

Q13. I’m really confused about who should self-isolate. Who does it apply to?  

Hopefully the table below showing coronavirus self-isolation requirements will explain this clearly for you. 

Self-isolation is for 14 days from the time you left mainland China.   

 

Left mainland China before 19/1/2020 

Left mainland China on or after 19/1/2020 

Left mainland China on or after 2/2/2020 

From Wuhan / Hubei 

OK 

MANDATORY 

MANDATORY  

From mainland China 

OK 

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED 

MANDATORY 

From Hong Kong 

OK  

OK 

OK  

Important: If you are feeling unwell, do NOT go to the Polytechnic. Please call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.   

Q14. I’m from China originally but am coming back to New Zealand via another country. I’ve never been to the Hubei Province and never came into contact with a sick person. Do I need to self-isolate?   

Yes, if you are arriving into New Zealand after 2 Feb, come from mainland China originally but have arrived in New Zealand via another country, you will still need to self-isolate.   

This self-isolation period needs to begin from the day you left mainland China  

So, for example, if you left mainland China on Wednesday 29 Jan (NZ time), went to Australia for a couple of days holiday and then arrived into New Zealand from Australia on Sunday 2 February (NZ time), you would need to self-isolate in New Zealand until Wednesday 12 February (NZ time).  

If however, 14 days have passed before you arrive into New Zealand (since you left mainland China) and you feel well, you do not need to self-isolate or tell anyone.    

So, for example, if you left mainland China on Wednesday 29 Jan (NZ time), go to Australia for two weeks and then arrive into New Zealand on Wednesday 12 February (NZ time) or after, you do not need to self-isolate.    

Q15. What does self-isolation actually mean?  

Self-isolation means avoiding situations where you could infect other people.   

This means any situation where you may come in close contact with others (face-to-face contact closer than one metre for more than 15 minutes).

For students, this means staying in your flat/house and avoiding contact as much as you can with other friends and flatmates.   

You also need to avoid situations where you might come into contact with other members of the public so please don’t go to social events, restaurants/cafes, sports events, supermarkets or shopping malls.   

Please also don’t use public transport. If possible, please ask a friend or family member to take your children to school (if they are not also required to self-isolate).   

Your emotional and mental health are really important during this time. 

  • It is normal to feel stressed or lonely if you are self-isolating but there are some things you can do to feel better. 
  • Reach out to your usual supports, like family and friends, and talk about how you feel. 
  • The Ministry of Health also recommend sticking to a regular routine such as having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercising. 
  • If you feel like you're not coping, it's important to talk with a health professional. For support with anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor (this service is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 

The Ministry of Health have recently created a webpage with more information about self-isolation. Find out more here 

Q16. How do I eat and drink when I’m in self-isolation? How do I get things like medicine?     

It is okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food/supplies/medicine to you during the time that you are self-isolated. Please ask friends or family to carry out errands on your behalf.   

If you have no-one to supply you with food and don’t know what to do, please get in touch with our Student Support team so we can help you with ordering deliveries. 

Q17. What if I live in flat or house with other friends?  

It is okay for you to be in a room in a house where other people live but please avoid contact with your flatmates and friends as much as possible. 

Practice good hygiene to limit the possibility of any illness spreading:  

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds  
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (or you can cough or sneeze into your sleeve)  
  • Throw used tissues into a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands.   

In addition, you need to avoid sharing household items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, pillows, or other items with other people in your home. After using these items, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water, and place them in the dishwasher for cleaning.

Q18. Will being in self-isolation affect my attendance report?  

No. As long as you tell us that you are in self-isolation, we will be able to mark you as a ‘justifiable absence’ which does not affect your attendance report. Please send a copy of your flight details to Student Success.  

Q19. Will being in self-isolation affect my visa?  

No.

Immigration New Zealand have confirmed that if a student does not attend class for 14 days because they are in self-isolation, this will not affect their visa situation.  

Please be assured we will work with any affected individuals closely to limit disruption so that you are not disadvantaged.  

+ Campus life / Student welfare questions 

Q20. What is Otago Polytechnic doing to ensure the welfare and safety of its students on campus?  

We are doing our utmost to ensure the safety of our students, staff and wider community at this time.   

What we’ve done so far  

  • Followed the guidelines from the Ministries of Health, Education, and Foreign Affairs and Trade  
  • Sent all student email communications with the latest updates from the New Zealand Government (these communications have included information around mandatory self-isolation, as well as best practice around personal hygiene)  
  • Kept our centralised webpage up-to-date  
  • Communicated webpage link via our Student Hub and Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association Facebook webpage 
  • Sent the same email communication out across relevant Chinese social media channels i.e. WeChat  
  • Set up a FAQs webpage 
  • Created a register of affected students so that individual contact can be made 
  • Making daily welfare checks on those students who are self-isolating and supplying them with whatever they need if necessary  
  • Made hand sanitiser available around the campuses  
  • Put hand washing posters up around campuses.    

Q21. I’m worried about being exposed to Coronavirus. Can I stay away from campus?  

No. 

We expect all students who are well and have not been in China in the last 14 days to attend their class. We understand some of you are concerned about being exposed to the virus but assure you your health is our priority and we are doing everything we can to keep you safe.  

Q22. What should I do if I’m worried someone on campus has coronavirus?  
Please remember that it’s flu season in the Northern Hemisphere so there might be quite a lot of people from overseas with simple coughs and colds.    

Please keep in mind:  

  • just because someone is unwell does not mean they have coronavirus (the chances of this are incredibly small)  
  • there are still no identified cases of coronavirus in New Zealand  
  • it is important not to presume people have the virus just because they are from a particular culture. 

We are an inclusive and welcoming organisation and we need to look after one another at this time 

We are very much looking forward to welcoming our international students from China to our campuses and wider community once the travel bans have been lifted.     

If you are genuinely concerned about someone’s health, please contact your Student Support team and let them know why you are concerned.    

+ Contact and support questions 

Q23. I’m an international student and am really worried about all of this. Is there an emergency number I can call?  

Yes, we have an emergency contact number which you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 021 735 421 (from within NZ) or 0064 21 735 421 (outside of NZ).    

Alternatively, you can speak with one of our international student advisors based in Dunedin (for Dunedin or Central Otago enquiries):   

  • Sheena Roy – 027 497 2452 (from within NZ) or +64 27 497 2452 (outside of NZ) 
  • Yvonne Fogarty – 021 735 258 (from within NZ) or +64 21 735 258 (outside of NZ)  
  • Email – internationalstudentsupport@op.ac.nz    

Or our international student support team based in Auckland (for Auckland enquiries):  

Q24. And what about general student support? How do I access that?  

We are committed to supporting all our students during this time. If you want to speak with someone, please use the following contact details:   

Auckland-based Student Support   
Phone 0800 111 212 (freephone within NZ)  
Phone +64 21 02828711 (alternative number from within NZ or from overseas)  
Email studentsuccessaic@op.ac.nz    

Dunedin-based Student Support   
Phone 0800 762 786 (freephone within NZ)  
Phone + 64 3 477 3014 (from overseas)   
Email studentsuccessdn@op.ac.nz    

Central Otago-based Student Support   
Phone 0800 765 9276 (freephone within NZ)  
Phone +64 3 445 9900 (from overseas)  
Email censtudentsuccess@op.ac.nz    

If you are a distance student and feel concerned, please contact the Student Support team at the campus that are providing your programme and they will assist you.    

> Otago Polytechnic Student Support website   

You can also call or text 1737 for free support.