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HealthInfo Canterbury

Overview of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Mate korona

This page has links to information in te reo Māori.


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

There are several variants of Covid-19.

It can help to know that you and your whānau (family) are prepared for COVID-19. Plan ahead in case someone in your household gets 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 the virus.

The virus can travel in the air as small particles called aerosols or in larger droplets that settle on surfaces.

Most COVID-19 is spread by breathing in the small aerosol particles. The risk of this is higher indoors, particularly if the area is crowded or has poor ventilation.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

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

Symptoms of COVID-19

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 or taste.

If you have the symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean you have COVID-19. But if you have any of these symptoms, phone your general practice team for advice or Healthline on 0800-358-5453. Your general practice team 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.

Testing for COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should have a COVID-19 test.

You may need a test if you're a household contact, even if you don't have any symptoms.

You may also need testing in other situations, such as for travel or for your job.

For more information, see COVID-19 testing.

COVID-19 vaccinations

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed. For information about the vaccines available in New Zealand, see COVID-19 vaccines.

Treating 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 have a higher risk of needing to go to hospital because of your age (anyone aged 65 or older and Māori or Pasifika people aged 50 or older) or long-term conditions, you may be eligible for specific COVID-19 medicines. Contact your general practice team or check on Healthpoint for a pharmacy near you that can give you COVID-19 medicine without a prescription.

Support with COVID-19

You can still get health care during COVID-19, though you may access some services in different ways, such as by telehealth.

See Looking after your mental wellbeing for advice and resources to look after your mental health during COVID-19.

See Financial support for advice about financial support that might be available during COVID-19.

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.


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.


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

Vaka Tautua has information and a free help line, 0800-OLA-LELEI (0800-652-535).

Accessible information

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

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed February 2022. Last updated October 2022.


See also:

Caring for yourself at home with COVID-19

Caring for your child at home with COVID-19

COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 vaccines

Page reference: 980907

Review key: HICOV-710714