Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19/Coronavirus
Here are answers to your top questions about COVID-19 that’s affecting New Zealand and the world.
What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?
COVID-19, or coronavirus, is a new strain of virus that spreads from person to person, like a cold or flu. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be severe for some, especially the elderly and those with long term health conditions like heart disease.
What are the symptoms?
The 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:
• difficulty breathing.
Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
If you have these symptoms please contact Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or international +64 9 358 5453) or your doctor immediately. Call your doctor before visiting.
How long does it take for symptoms to appear?
We’re still learning about COVID-19. We don’t yet know how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected, but data to date suggests it is 2–10 days.
How does it spread?
Like the flu, COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. COVID-19 is spread by droplets. 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.
People may get infected by the virus if they touch those surfaces or objects, and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
• Stay at home during the Government’s alert level and always when you are unwell. Only leave your house to access essential services, like buying groceries or going to the pharmacy.
• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
• Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately, then wash your hands.
• Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds) and thoroughly dry them.
• Try to avoid close contact with any people who are unwell.
• Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Avoid sharing cups, plates, food etc
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
• Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have recently been overseas or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.
Where can I get more information about COVID-19?
What else can I do to help NZ respond to COVID-19?
• Be kind. Stay in touch with others and support them when you can. Learn more on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
• Practice physical distancing. It’s best not to shake hands, kiss hello or hongi for now. Keep a 2 metre distance from other people at all times.
• Get your annual influenza vaccine to protect your overall health. Learn more on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
Where can I find information about COVID-19 in additional languages?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19
What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
If you have a fever (at least 38°C), a cough, and/or shortness of breath, phone your GP for advice or freephone Healthline 0800 358 5453.
Who can get tested for COVID-19 and how?
The Government has set up a number of CBACs (community-based assessment centres) to provide safe places to get tested (swabbed) for COVID-19.
It’s important to note that these centres will not be open to the general public. You need to be referred there by a GP or Healthline (freephone 0800 358 5453). They will refer you for testing if you have had recent overseas travel, or contact with a person who is confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19, AND you have any of these symptoms: a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. If you are a healthcare worker with symptoms you can also be referred.
Please don’t visit a CBAC if you have not been asked to by your GP or by Healthline, this will keep you and others safe.
Is there a cure or treatment for COVID-19?
Currently, there is no specific treatment for coronavirus, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.
What should I do if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 you will be told what to do by your medical professional or public health unit. This will include:
• Telling people you know.
• Telling people at the places where you have been recently, eg: your local gym.
If I am feeling unwell, how can I travel?*
To help limit the spread of any virus, those who are unwell should stay at home. If you’re unwell and must travel, you will need to use private transport. If that’s not possible, call Healthline for guidance first (0800 358 5453).
If you have any COVID-19 related concerns please call Healthline (0800 358 5453) for advice before you travel.
*At alert levels 3 and 4 you are not allowed any non-essential travel.
About NZ COVID Alert Level 4
When does NZ go to COVID-19 alert level 4?
New Zealand is under COVID-19 Alert Level 4 from 11.59 pm on Wednesday 25 March and will stay that way for at least four weeks. Find out about the Alert Levels.
What does alert Level 4 mean for most New Zealanders?
Stay home. New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of their self-isolation group. You should only spend time with the people in your self-isolation group, and keep your distance from all others at all times.
For most people, your self-isolation group is the people who live in your home with you.
You can include people who do not live with you in your self-isolation group, but groups cannot overlap. No one in your self-isolation group should interact with anyone outside it. The smaller your group, the better.
We know that this is a big ask. But it’s the best thing you can do to help protect those around you – your family, whānau, friends and coworkers – from COVID-19. We all need to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus.
Can I travel in my region?
Nonessential travel between regions is not allowed, but you can travel within your region as long as it is not inside a COVID-19 cluster.
What if I work for an essential business?
Supermarkets, pharmacies, vets, hospitals and medical clinics, postal and courier services and emergency services will stay open and their employees will continue working at any COVID-19 alert level. Employers will take precautions, such as physical distancing, to ensure the health and safety of their workers. The children of essential workers can remain at school.
You can learn more about essential businesses on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
Can I go to my workplace?
Anyone working in essential services may continue working. Everyone else should work from home if that’s an option, if not they must still stay at home.
Can my kids go to school, university or early childhood centres?
No. Schools and childcare centres will be closed and the school or centre will provide more guidance to parents about modified school holidays and when and how children can learn from home. The children of essential workers can remain at school on 24 March but schools close entirely from midnight on 25 March.
Can I go outside for exercise or fresh air?
You may go for a walk or exercise and enjoy nature, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times. And stay within your region.
Can my kids go outside?
You can take your children outside. They should stay a 2 metre distance from people at all times. Stay within your region.
Can I leave the house to buy food, petrol or medicine?
Yes. Food, petrol, medicines, and healthcare for those that need it will be available. Stay within your region when travelling.
You can travel in your own vehicle to supermarkets, doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, and petrol stations. Make sure you wash your hands after any trip outside your home and before you eat, drink or touch your face.
Can I take public transport?
From March 25, public transport will be available only to people working for essential businesses, travelling for medical reasons or going to the supermarket. Sit away from other passengers.
From March 26 travel for those people will be free during alert level 4. Sit away from other passengers.
Ferry services, road and rail will be available for the transport of essential goods.
Can I leave the house to see my doctor for a regular visit (not related to COVID-19)?
If you need to see a doctor or other medical professional you must phone first.
Most consultations will happen over the phone or by video conference or text or patient portal to stop any risk of the disease spreading from person to person.
If a face to face meeting is required, your doctor or other medical professional will organise this with you.
If you cannot get through and are severely unwell, for example having major trouble breathing, contact emergency services (dial 111).
What do I do if I need a repeat prescription for my regular medication?
Your doctor will have a way for you to get a prescription without you going to see your doctor face to face. Please ring your doctor for further information.
Pharmacies are recognised as an essential service and will remain open. If you need to go to your local pharmacy, phone them first to ensure you are able to go inside. Do they same when visiting your vet.
If you are in an at-risk group ‒ over 70, have a weak immune system and or a long term condition like heart disease ‒ ask someone to pick up your medicines on your behalf.
Where can I find information about the COVID-19 alert levels in additional languages?
Ways to get through
Where can I get financial support?
The Government is acting to support New Zealanders through these changes with an updated package that has been expanded now we have escalated our response. This includes:
• a wage subsidy scheme
• leave and self-isolation support
• business cash flow and tax measures.
Your usual financial support, such as benefits, will continue. You can learn more on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
What are some ways I can manage my mental wellbeing?
• Reach out virtually to your family and whānau, friends and workmates. Share how you feel and offer support to others.
• Stick to your normal routine as much as you can, such as having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercise.
• Keep active – work or study, enjoy your hobbies and have virtual visits or phone calls with friends and whānau.
• Spend time in places that feel safe and comfortable as much as possible.
• Practice mindfulness techniques to refresh and refocus your mind and body.
• Tell yourself that how you are feeling is a normal reaction and will pass – it’s nothing to be afraid of.
I’m feeling stressed, who can I talk to?
If you feel you are not coping, 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.
*Applies under alert level 4.
Who should self-isolate?
These groups of people should self-isolate
• Anyone who has returned from overseas travel in the last two weeks should self-isolate for 14 days.
• Travellers who returned before the official border restrictions were announced should also self-isolate for the balance of the 14 days since their arrival.
• Close contacts of people with COVID-19.
• Anyone who has a mild flu-like illness should stay home.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 like a cough, fever or difficulty breathing, phone your GP (doctor).
If you do not have a GP call Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453.
*Applies under alert level 4
What are the basic rules of self-isolation?
Stay at home and take simple common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people. Keep yourself out of any situation where you come into face-to-face contact with others who are less than 2 metres away, or you make any contact that lasts longer than 15 minutes.
This means you need to sleep in a separate room if you can, use separate towels, do your laundry separately, eat separately and minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and sitting rooms. If you use a shared space in your home, clean it thoroughly afterwards. Carefully wash and dry your used crockery, remembering to use a separate tea towel.
Don’t prepare food for others or share food and drinks, toothbrushes, towels, washcloths or bed linens.
More information about how to self-isolate is available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.
What can I do to get through self-isolation?
• Plan how you will get access to food and other supplies such as medications.
• If you urgently need supplies while you’re staying at home, ask friends or family and whānau to drop off anything you urgently need, or order supplies online.
• Make sure any deliveries are left outside your home for you to collect. Many New Zealand companies are now offering a ‘contactless’ delivery option.
• If it’s an option, work or study while you’re in self-isolation.
• Stay in touch with friends, family and whānau over the phone, or through other means of contact like video or chat services.
• Join online exercise classes or courses, or go for a walk or do some gardening outside. Be sure to stay 2 metres away from others and limit contact.
For parents and caregivers
How can parents, caregivers, whānau and teachers help children cope?
You can help children cope with anxiety by providing accurate information.
Children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events such as COVID-19. Parents, caregivers, whānau and teachers will have a particularly important part to play in reassuring children at this time.
Children will react to and follow your verbal and non-verbal cues. If you are able to stay informed and realistic, it will be easier for you to reassure children effectively as well.
Children need factual, age-appropriate information about COVID-19 so that they can also feel informed and in control. They need to know how they can play a part in avoiding infection and the spread of virus.
They also need to feel that any fears that they may have can be talked about and addressed.
Can I keep up with my co-parenting agreement?
If you have a co-parenting agreement, you can keep up with it, provided you do not have to travel between regions and can maintain a closed self-isolation group while doing so.
Where can I find guidance for aged care professionals?
Information for aged care providers is available on the Ministry of Health website.
Where can I find guidance for disabled people and residential care providers?
Information for disabled people and residential care providers is available on the Ministry of Health website.