COVID-19 FAQs

General FAQs

What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?

COVID-19 is a new virus that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a type of coronavirus. There are simple steps you can take to protect you, your family and whānau.

Everything you need to know about COVID-19 is available on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-everyone/understanding-covid-19/

How do I protect myself and others from COVID-19?

You should always practice good hygiene by:

  • covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues
  • washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap, and drying them thoroughly:
  • before eating or handling food
  • after using the toilet
  • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
  • after caring for sick people.

People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice good cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues, and wash hands). If you have concerns, you can contact the dedicated COVID-19 Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453.

What Alert Level is New Zealand at, and what does this mean?

New Zealand has a four-level COVID-19 alert system, that specifies public health and social measures to be taken against COVID-19.

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 2: Reduce. Level 2 means that COVID-19 is contained, but risk of community transmission is growing because we have more cases. This is when we are focused on slowing down the spread by reducing our contact with one another. We also increase our border measures and we cancel events. We ask people to work differently if they can and to cancel unnecessary travel.

Find out about the Alert Levels and what this means on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

Is the Alert System and response over the top?

No. The vast majority of people who will have COVID-19 will only experience mild to moderate symptoms. But there will be some who need more care and medical treatment.

That’s why we have to focus on one simple goal – to unite against COVID-19 and allow our health system to support those who need it.

Global examples have shown serious action needs to be taken quickly to stop widespread cases. 

Should I stock up on things in preparation for level 3 or 4?

No. At any Alert Level – essential services including supermarkets will continue to operate.

We absolutely urge you to not stock up on goods or produce. The border closures apply to people, not products.

By allowing supermarket workers the time to restock, they will have plenty of supplies to go around. Shopping as normal will allow supermarkets to manage supply and demand.

What can I do to prepare and get through?

Make sure you have your ability to work from home set up and you understand the process and policies from your workplace to allow you to do this.

Organise any medication repeats and check in on elder relatives or vulnerable people over the phone, to make sure they have everything they need.

Ensure you are connecting with others by non-physical means to ensure you maintain connections and mental wellbeing, such as via Facebook messenger, Skype, or by just picking up the phone.

 

What should I do if I am at risk, immune-compromised or have someone at risk in my household?

You are at high-risk if you are over 70, have a compromised immune system or have underlying health conditions.

People with underlying medical conditions include a compromised immune system, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, pregnant women or on immunosuppressant medications.

To find out more about at-risk groups, visit the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-everyone/vulnerable-people/

You need to take more precautions to protect yourself against all infections, including COVID-19.

The action you should take depends on our current Alert Level. For information about our current Alert Level, visit covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

 

Alert Level 1: Prepare

Alert Level 1 means preparing for the disease while it is contained.

We recommend people take the following simple steps to protect yourself and others:

  • Avoid close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly:
  • before eating or handling food
  • after using the toilet
  • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
  • after caring for sick people.

Additional measures that you and your whānau and friends can take include:

  • If you are immune-compromised, avoid staying with a person who is self-isolating (because they are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have recently travelled to any country except those listed in the countries and areas of concern under Category 2.)
  • You should stay at least 2 metres away from people who are unwell, if you are immune-compromised.
  • It’s also important that everyone helps to protect the safety of immunocompromised people living in our community. For example, if you’re unwell, avoid contact with someone who is immune-compromised.
  • We recommend checking safe travel adviceabout COVID-19 if you plan overseas travel.
  • At this time, it wouldn’t make sense for someone who is immune-compromised to wear a mask when in public to decrease risk for catching COVID-19. However, if your health care provider advises you to wear a mask when in public areas because you have a particularly vulnerable immune system, follow that advice.
  • If you are taking immunosuppressive drugs we advise that you do not stop this medication without first consulting your GP or specialist.

 

Alert Level 2: Reduce

Alert Level 2 means the disease is contained, but risks of community transmission are growing.

We recommend people take the steps outlined under Alert Level 1, as well as the below:

  • If you are at high-risk, you are advised to stay home as much as you can. This includes if you are over 70, have a compromised immune system or have underlying health conditions
  • Alternative ways of working are encouraged – work from home if possible
  • Practice physical distancing – avoid situations where you come into face-to-face contact with others closer than 1 metre away, for more than 15 minutes.

 

Alert Level 3: Restrict

Alert Level 3 means there is a heightened risk that the disease is not contained. This includes community transmission occurring or multiple clusters breaking out around New Zealand.

Follow the advice under Alert Level 1 and 2 to protect yourself and others, as well as the below:

  • Alternative ways of working are required
  • Stay home and consider self-isolation.

 

Alert Level 4: Eliminate

Alert Level 4 means it is likely the disease is not contained. This includes sustained and intensive transmission and widespread outbreaks.

At this stage, everyone in New Zealand must stay home.

 

I’m feeling stressed, who can I talk to?

If over the following days and weeks you feel you are not coping, it’s important to seek help and professional support. Your family doctor is a good starting point.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737 Need to talk? This service is free, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and gives you the chance to talk it through with a trained counsellor.

 

Can I go to school or work?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what Alert Level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

Alert Level 1: Prepare

Alert Level 1 means preparing for the disease while it is contained.

If you are feeling unwell, stay home.

If you arrived in New Zealand from some countries overseas, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate for 14 days and not attend school or work. Find out more about the most up-to-date advice for travellers on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

If you have symptoms that include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, sneezing or a runny nose call Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or your local doctor for the most up-to-date professional advice.

 

Alert Level 2: Reduce

Alert Level 2 means the disease is contained, but risks of community transmission are growing.

Anyone who is unwell should not be at school or at work.

If you are able to work from home, or put in place alternative ways of working, this is strongly encouraged. This includes remote working, shift-based working, physical distancing within the workplace, staggering meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements.

Schools will operate as normal, except where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Anyone who has arrived in New Zealand from anywhere overseas is required to self-isolate for 14 days. Find out the most up-to-date advice for travellers on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

 

Alert Level 3: Restrict

Alert Level 3 means there is a heightened risk that the disease is not contained. This includes community transmission occurring or multiple clusters breaking out around New Zealand.

Anyone who is unwell should not be at school or at work.

Alternative ways of working are required and non-essential businesses should close.

Affected schools will be closed – check in with your school on this.

Anyone who has arrived in New Zealand from overseas is required to self-isolate for 14 days. Find out the most up-to-date advice for travellers on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

 

Alert Level 4: Eliminate

Alert Level 4 means it is likely the disease is not contained. This includes sustained and intensive transmission and widespread outbreaks.

Everyone should stay at home.

All educational facilities are closed.

When should I seek medical advice?

If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, please contact Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or your doctor.

Can I still travel to New Zealand?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what Alert Level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

Find out the most up-to-date advice for travellers on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

For the latest information on overseas visitors to New Zealand visit the immigration New Zealand website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/coronavirus-update-inz-response

Guidelines for self-isolation are available at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/how-were-uniting/self-isolation/

 

Alert Level 1: Prepare

Alert Level 1 means preparing for the disease while it is contained.

Border entry measures are put in place to minimise risk of importing COVID-19 cases.

These include travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements for people arriving into New Zealand from certain countries.

Further information about who can travel to New Zealand is available on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/travel-restrictions/

 

Alert Level 2: Reduce

Alert Level 2 means the disease is contained, but risks of community transmission are growing.

Entry border measures are maximised to prevent spread.

The border is closed for everyone except New Zealand permanent residents and citizens. New Zealanders’ partners, legal guardians or any dependent children travelling with them may also return.

Anyone who has been overseas must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival, other than those travelling from the Pacific Islands.

Further information about who can travel to New Zealand is available on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/travel-restrictions/

 

Alert Level 3: Restrict

Alert Level 3 means there is a heightened risk that the disease is not contained. This includes community transmission occurring or multiple clusters breaking out around New Zealand. 

The border is closed for everyone except New Zealand permanent residents and citizens. New Zealanders’ partners, legal guardians or any dependent children travelling with them may also return.

Anyone who has travelled from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Non-essential domestic travel is minimised around New Zealand to prevent further spread.

Further information about who can travel to New Zealand is available on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/travel-restrictions/

 

Alert Level 4: Eliminate

Alert Level 4 means it is likely the disease is not contained. This includes sustained and intensive transmission and widespread outbreaks.

People are instructed to stay at home, and travel is severely limited within New Zealand.

Find out the most up-to-date advice for travel on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

 

Where can I get further information about COVID-19?

Get up-to-date information on the Ministry of Health website and on www.covid19.govt.nz.

All global information on COVID-19 from the WHO (World Health Organization) can be found via the following links:

 

Specific FAQs

 

Vulnerable people

Who are at risk/vulnerable people?

The following members of our community are more vulnerable to COVID-19. If you are at high-risk, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible.

Over 70

Older people often have underlying health issues, including respiratory issues that make them more vulnerable to this virus.

People with medical conditions

Underlying medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to this virus.

In particular, people with respiratory conditions, such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), heart conditions, high blood pressure, kidney problems and diabetes.

People undergoing a treatment for cancer and blood conditions

As treatments for cancer and blood conditions effect people’s immune systems, this makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Pregnant women

Health experts do not yet know if pregnant women are impacted by COVID-19 in the same way as other people. However, pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk from some infections.

Residents of aged care facilities

Aged care facilities are susceptible to rapid transmission of viruses like this. Residents are more susceptible to illnesses due to their age and they are also more likely to have underlying health conditions.

Migrant and refugee community

Migrant and refugee communities are more likely to have underlying health conditions and language barriers to healthcare, which may make them more vulnerable to the effects of this virus.

Contact / transmission related

What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing.

Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

If you have these symptoms and have recently travelled internationally, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, please contact Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or your doctor immediately.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Like the flu, COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The scientific evidence confirms that COVID-19 is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may generate droplets containing the virus. These droplets are too large to stay in the air for long, so they quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.

Droplet-spread diseases can be spread by:

  • coughing and sneezing
  • close personal contact
  • contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

That’s why it’s really important to practice good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and practice good etiquette by coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

How many cases and deaths have there been in New Zealand?

Please check the current situation section on the Ministry of Health website for up to date information: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus

 

Where in New Zealand are there confirmed COVID-19 cases?

The ‘Current situation’ section of the Ministry of Health website has the most up-to-date information on cases of the COVID-19 virus.

Read the latest COVID-9 updates on the health.govt.nz website: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus

 

Should I be worried about Coronavirus?

Current information shows that most people with this virus are not severely ill, and the vast majority of people who will ever have COVID-19 will only experience mild to moderate symptoms. But there will be some who need more care. That’s why we need to unite against COVID-19 and allow our health system to support those who need it.

The Prime Minister has announced a four stage alert system for responding to COVID-19. We are currently at level two. There is more information about the alert system on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

How do I know if I’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Whenever someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, teams immediately start work to identify who they might have come into close contact with. If you haven’t heard from a contact tracing team, your chances of catching COVID-19 are very low.

What happens when someone is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Whenever someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 medical professionals will advise them on what they need to do. For most people this will mean self-isolating at home.

Teams also immediately start work to identify and contact anyone that those who have tested positive may have come into close contact with.

If you haven’t heard from a contact tracing team, your chances of catching COVID-19 are very low.

What do I do if I’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19? 
If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of contact.

Close contact means face-to-face contact, closer than 1 metre away, for more than 15 minutes.

Should I get tested?

If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, please call your GP, or Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs).

I can’t get through to healthline/1737/my local doctor.

Many New Zealanders are reaching out for help and advice and everything that can be done is being done to get people the support they need as quickly as possible. Over the next few weeks the health system and those working to help NZ unite against COVID-19 will be building up their services to be able to offer more support to more people more quickly.

If you cannot get through and are severely unwell for example having trouble breathing, contact emergency services (dial 111).

How do you treat COVID-19?

Currently, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 as it is a new virus. Researchers are in the early stages of developing one.

Do face masks work?

Face masks are essential for front line medical staff, but not the most effective way for the public to protect themselves against COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.

It is recommended that you only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or are looking after someone who may have COVID-19.

A disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so it is important they are used correctly and sensibly.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the Covid-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work.

If you are pregnant, are you more at risk from COVID-19?

There is currently not enough research to provide scientific evidence about the effect of COVID-19 on pregnancy. Pregnancy does result in changes to your body, which might make you more susceptible to infections, including COVID-19.

People who are pregnant should engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection, like washing hands often and avoiding people who are sick. Consult with your GP to discuss what is best for you in your situation.

Can I still breastfeed if I have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19, there is no complete research available about the transmission of the virus through breast milk. However, in limited reports of lactating women infected, the virus has not been detected in breast milk.

COVID-19 is spread by droplets from coughs or sneezes by an infected person. You can limit the chances of spreading COVID-19 by:

  • Washing your hands before touching the baby
  • Using a breast pump or bottles
  • Avoid coughing or sneezing on the baby
  • Cleaning any breast pump as recommended by the manufacturer after each use
  • Consider asking someone who is well to feed your expressed breast milk to the baby.

Further information on the Ministry of Health website: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-self-isolation#hygiene

Can you get COVID-19 from animals?

While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.

COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.

WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics, and will update as new findings are available.

Where did COVID-19 come from?

COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It has since been reported in other provinces and in other countries. The latest information on this is available on the World Health Organization website.

Learn about where COVID-19 originated on the WHO website: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/

Self-isolation/physical distancing/working from home

How can I get food if I am in self-isolation?

You can arrange to have your shopping delivered, or have family, friends or neighbours drop off food or groceries. You just need to ask them to leave these at the door, rather than come in. Drop offs at the door (rather than coming in) will protect them from exposure to COVID-19.

Can I go to a bar/restaurant/café?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what Alert Level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

At all levels, if you are feeling unwell or are in an at-risk group, stay home.

If you do go out, it is important to maintain physical distancing – stay 1 metre away from others and avoid close-contact for more than 15 minutes. Wash your hands as much as possible if you are out in public.

Can I go to work if I work outside (i.e. builder, gardener, landscaper, rubbish collection, etc.)?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what Alert Level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

You can continue work, but make sure you are maintain physical distancing – avoiding face-to-face contact less than a metre away with others for more than 15 minutes.

 

Can my wedding (or other event) go ahead?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what Alert Level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

We urge you to adhere to social distancing rules of not being near others for more than 15 minutes, who are less than 1 metre away from you. This means that we suggest you don’t attend any events, regardless of the number of attendees.

Please also refer to the information on mass gatherings: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/mass-g/

 

My elderly relative lives alone, should I go into isolation with them to keep them company and comfortable and on top on things?

No, this could increase the spread of COVID-19. Instead, make sure they have any medication repeats and are aware of the helpline numbers to call.

Travel

Should I travel?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what alert level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

Check the SafeTravel website for the latest advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT): https://safetravel.govt.nz/news/covid-19-coronavirus

MFAT urge all New Zealanders living in, visiting or travelling overseas to register at SafeTravel: https://register.safetravel.govt.nz/

Registering means you will receive updated information and advice as soon as it comes to hand.

 

Where can I travel?

This depends on what Alert Level we are at. Find out what alert level we are on at covid19.govt.nz: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-system/

Find out the most up-to-date advice for travellers on the covid19.govt.nz website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-travellers

Check the SafeTravel website for the latest advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on where you can travel: https://safetravel.govt.nz/news/covid-19-coronavirus

If you are travelling, please take the following steps to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections:

  • avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
  • wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap, and dry them thoroughly:
    • before eating or handling food
    • after using the toilet
    • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
  • after caring for sick people, avoid close contact with others.

What are NZ’s self-isolation rules?

Everyone arriving in New Zealand is required to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive. You must fill out the supplied COVID-19 passenger health form on arrival to register your details with the Ministry of Health.

If you arrived in New Zealand before 1:00 am on Monday 16 March you do not need to self-isolate, UNLESS you came from China, Iran, Italy or South Korea (in which case you DO). However, the Ministry of Health recommends if you have travelled in the 14 days before that date you voluntarily self-isolate.

If you arrived after 1:00 am on Monday 16 March 2 you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Business/Economic

My business has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, we are struggling to keep afloat. Is there anything the Government can do to help us?

On March 17 the Government released an economic response package to support businesses through the impact of COVID-19 and support the economy during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes wage support, and cash flow and tax measure support.

Find out more on the Work and Income website: https://workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/covid-19-support.html?utm_source=business.govt.nz&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=special_cv_edition#null

Where can I go for information about the impact of COVID-19 on my business?

Business.govt.nz has a range of resources and information related to COVID-19 for businesses, including:

  • Business continuity planning
  • Economic response package and eligibility
  • Exporters and importers
  • Tax and ACC
  • Cash flow
  • Travel
  • Employers
  • Health and safety
  • Landlords and tenants
  • Education
  • Scams and cyber security

Further information about these topics is available on the business.govt.nz website: https://www.business.govt.nz/news/coronavirus-information-for-businesses/

I am a self-employed contractor and have been told I need to self-isolate and working from home is not an option for me. Is there any financial support available for me?

From 17 March 2020, the COVID-19 Leave Payment will be available to support people financially if they need to self-isolate, cannot work because they are sick with COVID-19 or cannot work because they are caring for dependents who are required to self-isolate or who are sick with COVID-19.

More information on who qualifies for the leave payment, and how to apply, can be found on the Work and Income website: https://workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/covid-19-support.html?utm_source=business.govt.nz&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=special_cv_edition#null

What is the Government doing to manage the economic impact of COVID-19?

On March 17 the Government released an economic response package to help cushion the impact of COVID-19 and support the economy during the COVID-19 crisis.

The package includes:

  • wage subsidy scheme
  • leave and self-isolation support
  • business cash flow and tax measures
  • wider $12.1 billion package.

Is the $12.1 billion package the only financial support that will be available?

Hon Grant Robertson said in his announcement on 17th March that this is not a one-off package, it is just the beginning. The situation will be constantly monitored and response adjusted as appropriate.

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