COVID-19 in New Zealand - frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness 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 and your whānau.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. However, if you are at all worried about yourself or your whānau, stay at home and telephone the dedicated coronavirus healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or your doctor immediately.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath.

Remember, shortness of breath is also a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

How is COVID-19 spread?

Like the flu, COVID-19 is spread from person to person.

When a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance, which quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.

You may get infected by the virus if you touch those surfaces or objects and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure you and your whānau keep up high levels of personal hygiene. The Ministry of Health recommends a number of precautions, including washing your hands regularly (for at least 20 seconds), practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette, and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

How do I protect myself and my whānau from COVID-19?

The most important thing you can do for yourself and those around you, is to continue practicing good personal hygiene.

The Ministry of Health has a list of practical recommendations – things you can do to help protect yourself and those around you:

  • 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.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, particularly if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as hugging, kissing, and sharing cups or food with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Call the dedicated coronavirus healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been recently been overseas or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.

I thought you could only catch COVID-19 if you’ve been overseas?

At the moment, the vast majority of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been people who have recently entered New Zealand following overseas travel. Many of these people have been New Zealanders returning home.

In other countries however, there have been proven cases of community transmission of the disease, meaning people with no direct links to recent overseas travel have caught COVID-19.

That’s why the most important thing you can do for your whānau is to continue following the Ministry of Health’s recommended precautions.

Who do I contact if I’m worried about me or my whānau?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

However, if you are at all worried about yourself or your whānau, stay at home and telephone the dedicated coronavirus healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or your doctor immediately.

Is it still safe for children to attend kindergarten?

The safest thing we can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to limit our interactions with others.

That's why our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that all non-essential businesses, including schools, early childhood services and universities must close effective midnight, Wednesday, 25 March 2020. You can read her announcement on the Beehive.govt website here

We know COVID-19 feels scary and of course people are concerned for the wellbeing of their children. Remember, the wellbeing of your children is our priority, too.

Who can I talk to if I’m feeling stressed or under pressure financially as a result of COVID-19?

We know COVID-19 feels scary and of course people are concerned for the wellbeing of their children. The wellbeing of your children is our priority, too. We also know that the current situation can feel really stressful for families. 

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or if you're worried about the impact COVID-19 may be having on your whānau, it's important to seek professional help and support. 

  • Your family doctor is a good starting point, particularly if you feel the current situation is impacting your mental health. 
  • For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737 Need to talk? This service is free and gives you the chance to talk things through with a trained counsellor (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 
  • If you've been affected by COVID-19, you may be eligible for financial support if you're self-isolating at home or your work has been affected. To find out what help may be available, who to contact for help, or for more information, call the Government Helpline on 0800 779 997 (open from 8am - 1am, 7 days a week). 8am–1am, 7 days a week). 

You can also visit the Work and Income COVID-19 website, which has some useful information.