COVID-19 | Mate korona – what you need to know

Key points about COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand

  • The situation with COVID-19 can change quickly.
  • On this page, we provide key information about where COVID is circulating and links for where to go for COVID-19 advice.
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COVID-19 is an illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a type of coronavirus. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The novel coronavirus now known as COVID-19 was first encountered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread to many other countries around the globe and is now recognised as a pandemic

It is called COVID-19 because it was first identified in 2019. There is no COVID-1 to COVID-18. It's known in te reo Māori as mate korona or Kowheori-19.

Video: What is COVID-19 with Nanogirl

(Dr Michelle Dickinson, NZ, 2020)

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms or tohu mate of COVID-19 are similar to common illnesses such as a cold or flu. You may have one or more of the following: 

Common symptoms

  • a new or worsening cough (mare tauraki)
  • fever (at least 38˚C) (kirikā)
  • shortness of breath (hēmanawa)
  • a sore throat  (korokoro mamae)
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell.

Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

Less common symptoms

Some people may have less typical symptoms such as only:

  • fever
  • diarrhoea (runny poos)
  • headache, myalgia (muscle pain)
  • nausea/vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • confusion/irritability.

Note that the less common symptoms are more common with the new variants.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor, Healthline 0800 611 116 or your iwi health provider. These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after you have been infected. The virus can be passed onto others before they know they have it – from up to 2 days before symptoms develop.

For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild to moderate illness. However, it can make some people very ill. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes) are at highest risk of severe disease. 

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19, like the flu, is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance.

That’s why it’s important to use good hand hygiene, practice physical distancing if you don’t know someone and stay home if you’re unwell. This includes regularly washing and drying your hands and coughing or sneezing into a disposable tissue or into your elbow. 

What can I do to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19?

As with other respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection:

  • regularly wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds with water and soap) and dry thoroughly 
  • 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
  • wear a face covering – you should wear one whenever you can. COVID-19 spreads by droplets, so face coverings are a way we can protect ourselves and others
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
  • don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.

Confirmed cases of COVID

Read the latest information about confirmed and probable cases of COVID in Aotearoa New Zealand(external link). This data is updated weekly.

Wastewater surveillance

Wastewater surveillance can be a guide on how much COVID is circulating in a particular area. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) provides a weekly wastewater surveillance report and dashboard to help you track potential COVID-19 risks in your local area. Find out more at the ESR COVID-19 insights(external link) page and the dashboard(external link)

COVID-19 healthcare is still free for eligible people. These include:

  • people with certain high-risk medical conditions
  • Māori and Pacific peoples
  • some disabled people
  • those aged 65 and over
  • anyone else that meets the criteria for access to antiviral medicines
  • refugees and asylum seekers
  • people experiencing homelessness or who are in transitional housing
  • people living in certain remote and rural locations who do not have easy access to healthcare services.

Most people will be able to manage their symptoms and recover at home. However, if you need to go to hospital because of COVID, hospital care will remain free. 

If you need help, contact your healthcare provider for advice or call Healthline 0800 611 116.

  • If you test positive for COVID-19 it's recommended that you isolate for at least 5 days so you don't pass it on to others. 
  • If you are a household contact, test with a rapid antigen test (RAT)(external link) only if you develop symptoms.
  • If your result is positive, isolate for 5 days.
  • If your test is negative but you continue to have symptoms, take another RAT in 24 and 48 hours. 

  • Masks are generally not required anywhere, but some healthcare facilities like hospitals, GPs, pharmacies and aged care residential facilities may ask you to wear one. 
  • Masks are recommended in confined places such as public transport or when visiting vulnerable people.

People arriving into Aotearoa New Zealand from overseas are encouraged to isolate for 5 days if they test positive – even with mild symptoms. Rapid antigen tests RATs are widely available across Aotearoa New Zealand. See information below.

If you're travelling overseas from Aotearoa New Zealand check the requirements of the country you're visiting.

  • COVID-19 antivirals are medicines used to treat COVID-19 infection. They may help you become less sick and stay out of hospital.
  • They are free for people who are at risk of severe illness with COVID-19. Read more about who can get COVID-19 antiviral medicines. 

Refer to the Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora antiviral medicines page(external link) for more information.

If you are eligible to have your COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, get it as soon as possible. Getting your booster will give you and your whānau greater protection from COVID-19.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, RATs (rapid antigen testing) are the main form of testing for COVID-19. They will remain free for collection from many providers until the end of June 2024.

Follow this Healthpoint link(external link) and type in your address to find out where they're available in your community. 

Information on how to do a rapid antigen test(external link) is available, but each brand is slightly different so read the information in the packet as well. 

Read more about RATs. 

Reporting your results

After doing your rapid antigen test, you should record your result in My Health Record(external link) (used to be called My Covid Record), as well as advising your employer.  Parents and caregivers can report RAT results for children under 12 and other family members. 

If you live with someone who develops COVID-19, you are advised to take a RAT test if you develop symptoms. As long as you continue to test negative you can keep doing your normal activities. If you test positive it's recommended you isolate for 5 days to protect others.

Yes, you can get re-infected with COVID within a short period of time. Reinfection will become more likely as new variants spread among the community. 

If COVID-19 symptoms return and it is 28 days or less since your last COVID-19 infection:

  • there is no need to take a RAT, but it's recommended that you stay home until you have recovered.

If you develop new COVID-19 symptoms and it's 29 days or more since your last COVID-19 infection it is possible that you have COVID-19 again and you should take a rapid antigen test (RAT).

If you test positive:

  • this will be considered a reinfection and you should isolate for 5 days.

If you test negative:

  • your symptoms could be another infection, eg, the flu or another virus
  • if your symptoms continue you should repeat a RAT 48 hours later
  • if your result is still negative, then stay at home until at least 24 hours after your symptoms resolve. 

If you have COVID-19(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak(external link) World Health Organization
COVID-19 current cases(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora, 2023
Wastewater surveillance(external link) ESR, 2023


The following is a list of trusted sources to go to for COVID-19 advice.

Go to Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora's COVID-19 page(external link) for up to date information.

Need an interpreter or information in another language?

  1. Feeling unwell? Call Healthline 0800 611 116

  2. Immediately say your language you need, for example, ‘Korean’ and wait (it could take up to 5–10 minutes). Do not hang up!

  3. The Healthline staff have been briefed not to carry on talking in English to you if you have said the language you need first. You will be connected to an interpreter.

  4. You can tell the interpreter your health concerns as part of a 3-way conversation with the Healthline staff.

Resources for Māori

There is tailored and relevant information and resources available for Māori on how to manage COVID-19.

Resources for Pasifika communities

OLA LELEI Pacific Helpline (0800 652 535)

  • Vaka Tautua(external link) provides a free FREE national Pacific helpline anyone can call if they are feeling worried, stressed or concerned about anything and need someone to talk to, help and support.

  • The service is available in Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands, Māori and English.

  • The free call phone line – 0800 652 535 (0800 Ola Lelei) is available Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Prepare Pacific(external link) has information specifically for Pasifika communities on COVID-19. There are also videos on the Ministry for Pacific People's website(external link)Facebook(external link) page and YouTube(external link) channel. 

Resources for people with disabilities and their family/whānau

You need to do everything you can to prevent yourself from coming into contact with COVID-19. This means being careful, clean and making a plan. Don’t be scared, be prepared.

Paerangi(external link) is an online information and referral centre designed specifically for whānau hauā (whānau with impairments).

Looking after your mental wellbeing

If you or someone you know is struggling, there is help and support available.(external link) You don't have to go it alone.

Support for people on their own or caring for a vulnerable person 

Register with link) to get advice and check-ins from trained and Police-vetted volunteers across New Zealand. 

Information for people with diabetes

Based on overseas experience, it appears that people with diabetes who contract COVID-19 are at increased risk of serious complications of the infection, including respiratory failure and death. This means you need to take particular care of yourself during this time. Read more about diabetes and COVID-19.(external link)

Additional resources

Essential items Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English [PDF, 1.3 MB], te reo Māori [PDF, 1.3 MB]
Manaaki tangata Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English, te reo Māori [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Everyday life Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)
Whānau wellbeing Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)
Whānau plan Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)
Personal wellbeing Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)
Tikanga Te Puni Kōkiri, NZ, 2020 available in English [PDF, 108 KB](external link), te reo Māori [PDF, 1.3 MB](external link)

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