Covid-19 is a new virus that has rapidly spread around the world. The virus affects the lungs and airways in a way that appears similar to the common cold or flu, but it can become serious. The virus is spread through physical contact and tiny droplets released from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, or talk. You can catch it through your eyes, nose, and mouth.
To protect yourself against Covid-19, you must maintain good hygiene practices, practice physical distancing, and stay home if you are unwell. It is recommended that you do not touch your face when you are in a public place, that you regularly wash and dry your hands, that you sneeze and cough into your elbow, and that you clean and disinfect areas you touch regularly. It may also be recommended that you wear a mask if you are vulnerable, in a crowded place, or on public transport.
It is important that we stay vigilant and adhere to recommendations stated on the Covid-19 website
. One of the recommendations is to use the COVID Tracer app
. It is a safe app which allows you to keep a digital diary of all the places and times you have been out. It helps with contact tracing and with linking cases in the community. This is a crucial step in minimising the harm of Covid-19. Almost all public places have a QR code that you can scan with this app to trace where you’ve been. You can download the COVID Tracer app onto your phone here
Covid-19 symptoms are often similar to a cold or the flu. While the symptoms vary from person to person, you may get:
- A new or worsening cough
- A sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Sneezing and a runny nose
- Temporary loss of smell
Some less common symptoms include:
- Aches and pains
- Nausea and vomiting
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should get tested immediately. Contact your doctor, health centre or Healthline before you go so they can follow safe procedure. You should stay at home and self-isolate if you are awaiting a Covid-19 test result or are diagnosed with the virus.
If you have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or loss of speech or movement, seek urgent medical attention. Call before arriving at the medical facility so they can follow safety protocols.
Who is at higher risk?
Some people have a higher risk of complications if they contract Covid-19. People who are at higher risk should take extra precautions to keep themselves safe. People at higher risk include:
- Older people (especially people over 70 with an underlying health condition)
- People with existing health conditions, such as chronic lung disease, heart conditions, unmanaged hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease
- People who smoke or are obese
- People with weakened immune systems, including from medications
- People in aged care facilities, especially because of the risk of rapid transmission
Government advice for higher-risk people
The Ministry of Health has created guidelines for higher-risk people about what to do at different alert levels. You can find more information on the guidelines for higher-risk people here. If you live in an aged residential care facility, your facility will use appropriate visitor restrictions and personal protective equipment (PPE) according to the government recommendations. Information about visiting aged residential care facilities in different alert levels can be found here.
The Alert Level system is designed to keep all New Zealanders on the same page about what restrictions and recommendations are in place if we see community transmission of the virus. It is designed to minimise the risk of spread and keep restrictions to a minimum. There are four levels in the Alert Level system.
At all levels
Some guidelines are recommended at all Alert Levels. These include:
- Staying home if you are sick and getting tested if you have symptoms
- Maintaining good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, and cleaning surfaces regularly
- Using the COVID Tracer app to track where you have been
- Maintaining physical distance from others in public where possible
Alert Level 1
At level 1, the virus is under control, but we must all be ready in case it reappears in the community. At this level, you can still work and there are no restrictions on movement or gathering size. People entering the border must stay in managed isolation for 14 days before being allowed in the community to quarantine. You can wear a face covering such as a mask or bandana to limit the spread of droplets. If you live in Auckland, you legally must wear a face covering on public transport unless you have an exemption card, and it is recommended that you wear a face covering in other parts of the country. Face coverings are also mandatory on flights within Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Alert Level 2
At level 2, the disease is contained in a cluster, but there is risk of community transmission. Guidelines at level 2 place a limit on gatherings, and face coverings must be used on public transport. You can go to work at level 2, but your workplace must follow safety guidelines. If you are sick, you should stay home and get tested. Higher-risk people are encouraged to take extra precautions.
Alert Level 3
At level 3 there is a high risk of multiple clusters of the virus and of community transmission. At this level, you should stay home in your bubble except for essential movement to work, school, or to access essential services. Your bubble can include family or caregivers that you do not live with, but you should keep this exclusive. If you work, you should try to work from home. At this level, public venues are closed, and gatherings are limited to up to 10 people. Higher-risk people are encouraged to stay home where possible but may access the essential services they need.
Alert Level 4
At level 4, movement is highly restricted and no gatherings are permitted. You are required to remain within your bubble for the full duration of level 4, unless your safety is at risk. All non-essential workers are expected to remain at home unless travelling to the supermarket or to get a Covid-19 test. A local walk is permitted provided that all safety measures are adhered to, including social distancing from people outside of your bubble. This is the most restrictive level and extreme precautions should be taken to ensure your safety.
For more detailed information on the Alert Level system and what you can do at each level, check the Covid-19 website.
Progress is rapidly being made on the development of a vaccine to immunise people against Covid-19. The first vaccines are now being released in higher-risk areas of the world. As New Zealand is not currently at high risk of community outbreak, we will not be the first to receive the vaccinations. According to the Ministry of Health, it is estimated that we will have vaccines available in mid-to-late 2021. These vaccines will be approved by Medsafe. You can find out more about the vaccine planned response here.
Websites of interest
- If you need assistance at different alert levels or if you feel unsure on who to contact about any issues, contact your local Age Concern
- To check the current Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, check the Ministry of Health website
- To find out the current alert level, check the Covid-19 website
- Frequently asked questions about Covid-19 may be answered here
- General information about Covid-19 can be found on the Ministry of Health website