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COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

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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 been identified. There's currently a worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.

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

It's important to take these steps to protect yourself and others:

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.

If you think you could have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, call first before going to a medical facility.

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.

You may be tested at your GP surgery or at a community-based testing centre (CBTC). Don’t turn up at a medical centre for testing unless you've spoken to them first.

Unless you're getting a test so you can travel overseas, COVID-19 testing is free. You shouldn't be charged for the assessment or the test.

If you need an overseas travel test, you'll need to book it with your GP or an urgent care facility. You'll need to book the test within the timeframe requested by the country you're travelling to and leave enough time for the test result to come back (usually 48 hours). You'll have to pay for the test. Ask your GP or urgent care facility for the cost.

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

See Self-isolation after COVID-19 testing for details of who should self-isolate and for how long.

There's currently a high demand for COVID-19 testing, which has led to longer turnaround times. People with COVID-19 symptoms or who work in managed isolation or quarantine facilities or at the border are being given priority for testing.

Don't phone the testing laboratory to ask about your test results. They'll give priority to contacting people who have positive test results.

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.


Getting through together covers all areas of COVID-19 wellbeing. It includes information about how to speak to children and has ideas for activities. It also has links to online mental health resources.

Mentemia is an app packed with evidence-based ideas and tools to help you learn how to be well, and stay well. There's also a blog that has insights, advice, tips and techniques for your mental wellbeing.

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

If you're suffering financial stress because of COVID-19, talk to your bank. You can also get advice from Ministry of Social Development and on the New Zealand Government COVID-19 website.

Family harm, including physical violence, sexual violence and emotional abuse has increased since the lockdown. If you feel unsafe, see Family harm for information and advice about how to get help.

Specific communities


Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā National Māori Pandemic Group has information and resources about the COVID-19 pandemic specifically for Māori. This information has been developed by leading Māori medical experts for whānau Māori.

This information sheet from Pegasus Health has information about local and national organisations that can support you and your whānau during COVID-19.


This information sheet has information about local and national organisations that can support Pasifika during COVID-19.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has produced this COVID-19 information for Pasifika people in New Zealand.

Accessible information

See advice in New Zealand Sign Language, easy read format and large print and audio.

  HealthInfo recommends the following videos

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

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

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


See also:

Caring for yourself at home with COVID-19

COVID-19 – Public message about medicines supply

Self-isolation after COVID-19 testing

Page reference: 710714

Review key: HICOV-710714