Close contact exemption scheme and access to Rapid Antigen Tests

Close contact exemption scheme and access to Rapid Antigen Tests

Information for staff working in early learning services, kura and schools about the Close Contact Scheme and Rapid Antigen Tests.

About the Close Contact Exemption scheme

The Close Contact Exemption scheme enables ‘critical staff’ who are vaccinated and asymptomatic household contacts of a COVID-19 case to continue to work outside of their place of residence.

The Close Contact Exemption Scheme is a last resort and you need to ensure the health measures outlined under the scheme are in place. 

Workers employed in an early learning service, kura or school may be covered by the scheme if the service, kura or school would otherwise be unable to supervise those children and students who need to attend.   

To continue working under the scheme, they must: 

  • return a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) prior to attending work each day during the isolation period, and 
  • follow specific health measures. 

Those who are participating in the scheme will be eligible to access free RATs. 

Consider all options before accessing the scheme

It’s important that any decision to access this scheme will need to be balanced against the health risks for students. You must first consider all possible alternatives, such as: 

  • use of relief teachers, unregistered teachers who hold a Limited Authority to Teach, non-teaching staff providing supervision for distance learning, or 
  • rearranging classes or timetables. 

We also encourage you to contact parents and caregivers to determine how many children must attend and other care options that may be available to them.  

How to access the scheme

Follow the steps below to have your organisation registered as a critical business.

How to register as a critical service

Access the registration website

You will need to be registered as a critical service on MBIE’s Critical Services Register.

Register as a critical service — Business Connect

Sign in using RealMe
Complete the online form

Select the ‘Close Contact Scheme Exemption Register’ and complete the online form.

Select your business activity

When you are asked for your primary business activity, select ‘miscellaneous’ from the drop-down list.


Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with more information.

You no longer need to contact the Ministry of Education or provide us with the details of who you are exempting from the legal requirement to isolate at home. 

Health measures to support exempted close contacts

Eligible staff members will only be allowed to go to and from work. They must stay in their place of self-isolation at all other times. 

Those who are onsite must also comply with the following health measures: 

  • Wear a medical mask at all times (including wearing a medical mask before entry to the workplace and changing as needed during the day). 
  • As part of your risk assessment when considering bringing in a household contact under the scheme, consider the risk to others, including children and students, sharing the same space and whether there are other mitigations that need to be used. This includes requiring masks for children and young people. Workers sharing the space with the exempted person are legally required to wear a mask, which will include any volunteers, unless otherwise exempted. 
  • Anyone working in the same defined space must also wear a medical mask (the mask requirements for the traffic light setting in place at the time will apply to children and students). 
  • Comply with any infection prevention and control protocols at work. 
  • If possible, travel solo or with a household member to, from and around work or between jobs. If public transport is required to go to work, the RAT should be taken (and a negative result returned) before leaving home. 
  • Eat alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible. 
  • Use a dedicated bathroom. If this is not possible, other people should not be present in the bathroom while the worker is using it. 
  • Ensure that if symptoms develop at any stage, they do not come to work and follow the public advice for close contacts with symptoms. 

Advice for close contacts with symptoms - Ministry of Health