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HealthInfo Canterbury

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

This page has links to information in other languages.

A new type of coronavirus known as COVID-19 has been identified. The virus affects the respiratory system. The Ministry of Health is monitoring the situation and is following guidance from the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. Unfortunately, it has spread worldwide and New Zealand has put measures in place to try to control the spread of the virus.

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

The Ministry of Health has information on its website that's updated daily.

The Ministry of Health has COVID-19 information in other languages, including New Zealand sign language.

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

Keeping individuals, families and our communities safe and healthy requires a team effort. Everyone should use the health system responsibly and help slow the spread of the virus by following the advice below.

See COVID-19 – Public message about medicines supply for information about the supply of medicines.

See COVID-19 – Community-based assessment centres (CBAC) for information about getting tested for COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of COVID-19 are like other illnesses such as the flu (influenza). Symptoms include cough, fever and breathing difficulties.

If you have the symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you have COVID-19. But if you have these symptoms and have recently travelled from overseas, phone your GP for advice or Healthline on 0800-358-5453 (see below). 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.

Preventing the spread of coronavirus

COVID-19, like the flu, can be spread from person to person. When a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance, which quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.

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

That’s why it’s really important to use good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and use good cough etiquette.

You can help protect yourself and others by:


Self-isolation is an essential tool for preventing the spread of the virus. The following pages provide clear practical information about who should self-isolate and how to self-isolate.

Testing for COVID-19

If you have symptoms and you think you might be at risk of having COVID-19, you should call your GP for advice. If you don't have a GP, you can call Healthline on 0800-358-5453 (see below).

They'll assess you to see if you meet the criteria for testing and if you need a medical assessment with a doctor.

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

At this stage, you'll only be tested for COVID-19 if you meet the criteria. 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 assessment centre (CBAC). You'll be given instructions about what to do when you get there. 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. After having the test, if you're well enough to go home, you should go straight home and self-isolate until your test results come back. Other people in your household should also self-isolate until a negative result is confirmed.

Treating COVID-19

Currently, there's no specific treatment for COVID-19. Most people will have mild symptoms that they can manage at home in the same way as a cold. A few people will need medical treatment in hospital.

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.

Dedicated Healthline 0800 number for COVID-19 health advice and information

For health advice or information, phone 0800-358-5453. It's free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you're using an international SIM, call +64-9-358-5453.

When you call that number, you'll be able to talk with a member of the National Telehealth Service. They have access to interpreters.

Healthline has been under huge pressure with triple the number of calls compared to the same time last year. You should only call Healthline for health information and support with self-isolation.

Much of the information you need is available online at the links provided throughout this page.

The Ministry of Health website answers many common questions about COVID-19.

If you want more information about the response, visit the New Zealand Government COVID-19 website or call the Government Helpline on 0800-779-997.

For travel advice, visit the Government’s Safe Travel website.

If you can't work or have lost your job because of COVID-19, visit the Work and Income (WINZ) website.

If you're concerned about an event, contact the people organising it for information.

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


These are very difficult times with many people feeling very uncertain about the future. There are some simple steps that you can take to look after your wellbeing.

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

If you're suffering financial stress as a result 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.


The New Zealand Government currently strongly advises against any foreign travel.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing the latest advice for travellers on the Safe Travel website.

Returning or travelling to New Zealand

The New Zealand Government has further strengthened travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers from 23.59 on Thursday 19 March 2020.

Returning residents and citizens must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2020.


See also:

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

COVID-19 – Public message about medicines supply

COVID-19 – Breastfeeding advice

Diabetes and COVID-19

Dental care and COVID-19

Page reference: 710714

Review key: HICOV-710714