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HealthInfo Canterbury

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

This page has links to information in other languages.

Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that infect the respiratory system (your lungs and airways). A new strain of coronavirus known as COVID-19 has recently been identified. There's currently a worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.

The New Zealand Government COVID-19 website has COVID-19 information and advice in other languages, including New Zealand sign language.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has COVID-19 information in Pacific languages.

The spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 can spread from person to person.

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

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

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

You can help protect yourself and others by:

Self-isolation for preventing the spread of COVID-19

Self-isolation is an effective tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Self-isolation aims to protect people around you such as family, friends and work colleagues from catching COVID 19.

This factsheet from the New Zealand Government COVID-19 website has clear practical information about self-isolation.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Most cases identified to date have mild to moderate illness. In severe cases, the virus can cause pneumonia and severe respiratory infection.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are like other viral illnesses such as a cold and the flu. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing or runny nose and temporary loss of smell.

If you have the symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you have COVID-19. But if you have any of these symptoms, phone your GP for advice or Healthline on 0800-358-5453. Your GP or Healthline will tell you what to do. You should also call if you've been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.

Don't visit a medical facility without contacting them first.

Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia. If you have difficulty breathing, you should always seek immediate medical attention.

Testing for COVID-19

If you think you need to be tested for COVID-19, you should contact your GP or Healthline on 0800-358-5453.

They'll assess you to see if you need a test and if you need a medical assessment with a doctor. You won't be tested if you don't have symptoms, unless the Public Health service requires it.

Don’t turn up at a medical centre for testing unless you've spoken to them first.

You may be tested at your GP surgery or at a community-based assessment centre (CBAC). You'll be given instructions about what to do when you arrive for your test. It's important to follow these instructions so that infection control measures can be put in place.

Testing involves a swab taken from the back of your nose. You'll be told when and how to expect your results.

After having the test, you should go straight home. You should act as though you have COVID-19 and self-isolate until your test results come back. See Self-isolation after COVID-19 testing for details of who should self-isolate and for how long.

Treating COVID-19

Currently, there's no cure or vaccine for COVID-19. Most people will have mild symptoms that they can manage at home in the same way as a cold or the flu. See Caring for yourself at home with COVID-19 and Eating and drinking when recovering from COVID-19. Some people will need hospital care.

If you're at home with COVID-19 and you become more unwell, particularly if you're finding it more difficult to breathe, you should contact your GP or after-hours service if it's outside normal GP hours. If you become very unwell or short of breath, you should call 111 for an ambulance. You should tell the phone operator that you have COVID-19.


There are some simple steps that you can take to look after your wellbeing. Also see Wellbeing during COVID-19.

You can call or text 1737 at any time to speak with a trained counsellor – it's free and confidential.

For non-COVID-19 health concerns, call your GP or Healthline’s main number 0800-611-116.

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On the next page: Further information about the response to COVID-19

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created February 2020. Last updated May 2020.


See also:

Advance care planning

Caring for yourself at home with COVID-19

COVID-19 – Community-based assessment centres (CBAC)

COVID-19 – Public message about medicines supply

Health care during COVID-19

Self-isolation after COVID-19 testing

Wellbeing during COVID-19

Page reference: 710714

Review key: HICOV-710714