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 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. Learn more about the COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand.

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.

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 358 5453 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.

Read more about public health measures to stop the spread or tikanga akuaku, including hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, not touching your face and physical distancing (sometimes known as 'social distancing' or tū tīrara).

Note: from 13 February 2023, some people will have to pay for COVID-related visits to their healthcare provider. COVID care will still be free for you if you:

  • have a high-risk medical condition
  • are Māori or Pasifika
  • have a disability
  • are aged 65 years or older
  • meet the criteria for antiviral medicine.

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 358 5453.

  • 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) if you develop symptoms. 

  • Masks won't be 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 will continue to receive free RATs at the airport and will be encouraged to isolate for 5 days if they test positive – even with mild symptoms. Read more about how to access RATs and PCR tests on this Unite Against COVID page(external link).  

If you are travelling overseas from Aotearoa New Zealand check the requirements of the country you are visiting. Find more information on travelling overseas(external link)

  • 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 Ministry of Health COVID-19 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, including Omicron. The second booster shot is available for some people, read more about who is eligible and when.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, RATs (rapid antigen testing) are the main form of testing for COVID-19. You can now access a RAT from hundreds of locations around the country, including supermarkets and pharmacies, making getting a test much easier. Places where RATs are available can be found on the HealthPoint(external link) website.(external link) Read more about RATs. 

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. 

Reporting your results

After doing your rapid antigen test, you should record your result in My Covid Record(external link), as well as advising your employer. If you can't access My Covid Record, call 0800 222 478. Parents and caregivers can now choose to use My Covid Record to report RAT results for children under 12 and other family members. Read more about how to report RAT results.(external link)

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 is recommended you isolate for 5 days.

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(external link) 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(external link) and it is 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:

If you test negative:

  • your symptoms could be another infection, such as 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. 

Read more about reinfection with COVID-19.(external link) 

A free helpline has been set up for businesses: North Island 0800 500 362 and South Island 0800 50 50 96.

(Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, 2022)

View transcript. [DOCX, 32 KB]

Note that some of these recommendations may have changed now that the rules around isolation are being lifted. 

Government helpline 0800 779 997
Need to talk? Call or text 1737
Essential business enquiries or 0800 22 66 57

COVID-19 including symptoms, how it is spread and what you can do to help prevent it
COVID-19 Information and advice translated into different languages (external link)Unite Against COVID-19, NZ
Unite against COVID-19(external link) NZ Government
Covid-19 education(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak(external link) World Health Organization
Easy to read information about COVID-19(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Translated information about COVID-19(external link) NZ Government


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

Go to the Unite against COVID-19(external link) website for all your COVID-19 questions, including those that are not health-related. They have translated resources available here.(external link) You can also follow Unite against COVID-19 on Facebook(external link) and get regular email updates by subscribing here.(external link)

The Ministry of Health also has up to date information on its website,(external link) and Twitter channel.(external link) 

A national COVID-19 healthline is available anytime on 0800 358 5453. Wellington region COVID-19 helpline is available from 7am–9pm on 0800 141 967.

The Government has also launched a WhatsApp channel Govt.NZ(external link) which is free to use on any mobile device and has information and news for the public, businesses, healthcare providers, not-for-profit organisations and local government. 

Need an interpreter or information in another language?

  1. Feeling unwell? Call Healthline 0800 358 5453

  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 three-way conversation with the Healthline staff.

See also translations(external link) on the Unite against COVID site, and the Ministry of Health's site.(external link) 

Resources for Māori

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

Resources for Pasifika communities

OLA LELEI Pacific Helpline (0800 652 535)

  • Vaka Tautua 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.

  • Visit their website for more information and for links to COVID-19 resources: link)

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

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.

Read more information for disabled people and their family and whānau.(external link) 

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. See also helping kids cope with anxiety.

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

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

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

What to expect and how to prepare for Covid-19(external link) Auckland Regional Public Health Services, NZ, 2020
Deaf and hard of hearing communication cards(external link) Capital & Coast District Health Board, NZ, 2021
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)

The following links take you to the most up-to-date information from the Ministry of Health:

Goodfellow Unit webinars and updates

PHARMAC updates

COVID-19 antiviral Access Criteria assessment tool(external link) June 2022
Online tool to make it easier to assess if someone qualifies for funded antiviral treatment for acute COVID-19 infection. 

COVID Care in the Community

Presentation(external link) by Care in the Community and Outbreak Response partners describing the COVID-19 Model of Care changes, including other areas such as PPE supply and testing – (22 mins) August 2023 (password: careinthecommunity).

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