COVID-19: Isolating from others

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to isolate from the community to help stop the spread of the virus.

Last updated 20 September 2022

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What isolation means for you

You must isolate for 7 days from the day your symptoms started or the day you received a positive test result, whichever comes first. This is called Day 0. If you become seriously unwell, you will receive hospital care if this is in line with your needs and wishes.

Your household contacts do not need to isolate but they should test daily for five days with a rapid antigen test (RAT). Read more about who is a household contact and what they need to do here. If the test positive, then they must isolate for seven days as a case.

What to do when isolating

Most people with COVID-19 will be fine to recover at home, but you should:

  • keep in touch with friends and family over the phone or internet
  • get supplies of kai (food) and medicine delivered to you
  • keep a 1.5-metre distance from your household members
  • minimise the time you spend in shared spaces (for example, bathrooms, kitchens and sitting rooms)
  • keep your home well ventilated.
  • wear a face mask or face covering (have at least 2 face coverings and wash each day) when in shared spaces
  • wipe down shared surfaces after use (for example, bathroom taps and kitchen benches)
  • do your own laundry.
  • wash your hands often
  • cough or sneeze into an elbow or a tissue.

Contact the COVID-19 welfare support line (0800 512 337, 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on a Saturday) if you need help with kai or other welfare support.

What not to do when isolating

When you are isolating you cannot:

  • go out to get kai (food) or medicine
  • go to work, school or public places
  • use public transport or taxis
  • have visitors (except people providing essential care to you or someone in the household)
  • get vaccinated until you have recovered (ring the booking line or go online to change your appointment).

You should not:

  • share a bed
  • prepare food for others
  • share dishes and cutlery, towels and pillows.

Permitted reasons to leave your place of self-isolation

When you are self-isolating, you can leave home if you wear a face mask at all times, to:

  • report for, and undergo, any medical examination and testing required
  • access an essential health service for treatment that cannot wait until after your self-isolation has finished
  • attend any court, tribunal, New Zealand Parole Board hearing, or other judicial institution that you are required to attend 
  • move to another place of self-isolation in order to preserve your own or another person’s life, health, or safety 
  • visit a dying relative who is not expected to live beyond your 7 days isolation 
  • visit the body of a relative before a funeral or tangihanga if you will not be able to visit the body after your 7 days isolation.

Exercise

You can exercise outside in your neighbourhood without wearing a face mask. Stay physically distanced from others. You cannot use a shared exercise facility, such as a gym or swimming pool.

Take it easy and stick to gentle, familiar exercise. It’s important to take it slowly during your recovery period. Rest as much as you can and don’t rush back into exercise to avoid making any lingering symptoms worse.

Working from home

The Ministry recommends that you take the time you need to recover from your COVID-19 infection.

However, if you feel well and you have a job where you can work from home, then this may be an option while you are in isolation. If you are unable to work from home, then your employer (or you, if you are self-employed) may be able to apply for leave support from the Ministry of Social Development

Leave Support Scheme - Ministry of Social Development

Proof of isolation for employees and employers

If proof of COVID-19 isolation is needed for employment reasons, the Ministry recommends workplaces do not ask for a certificate from a medical professional due to the additional pressure this creates for primary healthcare. The Ministry of Health text services 2328 or 2648 can be considered sufficient evidence.

For workers

When you are confirmed as having COVID-19 you should record your result of your RATs at My COVID Record or by calling 0800 222 478.

Recording your RAT is important because:

it means the Ministry of Health can send you a text message which you can use as evidence of needing time off work should you require itA member of the public health service can be in touch to provide support if you are considered to be of greater riskA second text may be sent from this number when you can leave isolation. The timing of this message is according to public health isolation requirements at the time. You can record your result at mycovidrecord.health.nz

For employers

2328 or 2648 numbers are text message services used by the Ministry that confirm when a person is COVID-19 positive and when their isolation period has ended, or if they have been identified as a household contact.

The Holiday Act 2003 says an employer may require an employee to produce proof of sickness or injury for sick leave taken if the sickness or injury is for a period of 3 or more consecutive days. Proof of needing time off work due to COVID-19 illness, can be confirmed by sighting the text messages from 2328 or 2648 to the person needing to isolate, as reliable evidence. With health providers busy treating those with other illnesses, employers are encouraged to accept these text messages as sufficient evidence for sick leave purposes, and not request medical certificates.

Medical certificates are not required, and should not be requested, for employers to access the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

For more information on leave entitlements and COVID-19, visit Employment New Zealand.

How to isolate at home

If you’ve been told you’ve got COVID or you think you might have it, it’s really important to isolate at home. This will help stop the virus from spreading.

Isolating can be really hard, especially if you live with whānau, friends or in smaller spaces.

You have to stay physically distanced from the rest of the household. It can help if you have a sleepout. If that’s not possible, stay in your room as much as you can and open windows to improve the airflow.

There are some important rules you should follow.

Stay at home

Kia ora John. I’m not feeling that great. I’ve got my results back and I’ve got the virus. No club night for me. I’ll be staying put for now.

Don’t leave home for food or medicines.

Koro, I’m leaving your brekky outside the door. And I’m making a list for online shopping.

Anything you need?

If you live alone or with others, arrange for someone to drop off food or medicines. Or you can get them delivered.

If you need to use the toilet or bathroom, use a separate one if you have it. If that’s not possible, use it after everyone else has been.

When you leave your room, wear a mask and keep 2 metres away from others.

Just going for a shower, kids.

We’re putting our masks on!

Hi guys, koro’s not too well. We’re all isolating so we can’t see you for a while, sorry.

If you are asked to stay at home with COVID-19, you’ll need to monitor your own symptoms. You can get help from a healthcare team if you need it. Kia ora e hoa. I’m outside getting some fresh air. I’m a bit hōhā but all good. Yep, I’m keeping track of my symptoms and got the kids running round after me.

You can do this and if at any time you have any concerns, a healthcare team is just a phone call away.

How to reduce the spread of infection in your home

Isolating at home can be a challenge, especially if you live with other people or in smaller spaces. Here’s some ways to stop COVID-19 spreading to your whānau or roommates.

We’re lucky that there’s a sleepout in the garden, so I’m using that until I feel better. If you don’t have a sleepout, you’ll have to stay in your house in a separate room or a space all to yourself as much as you can. And keep the door closed.

Keep the windows open to let fresh air circulate.

If you have to stay in your house like me, use a separate loo or bathroom. If you have to share, try using it after everyone else so it can be cleaned and ready for everyone else to use again.

Clean and disinfect all the surfaces you touch around your home, like taps, toilet flushers, door handles, light switches, keyboards and benches etc

Afterwards and often during the day, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Then dry your hands well and put the towel in the wash – or rubbish if it’s paper.

It’s a good idea to have hand sanitizer around the place, and you need to rub your hands with it for 20 seconds.

Avoid using shared spaces, like the kitchen or dining room, at the same time as other people. Eat in a different room from other people.

And make sure you don’t share cups, glasses, plates and cutlery. Wash them separately in really hot soapy water.

If you do have to use a shared space with others in your household, everyone, including yourself, should wear a mask, keep a distance of at least 2 metres and keep windows open to get that fresh air in.

Sneeze
Bless you.

Try to cough or sneeze into your elbow, or cover your mouth and nose with tissues. Put your used tissues into a lined rubbish bin and wash or sanitize your hands again. Easy as.

You can do this! Remember, stay away from others in your home as much as possible. And if you have new or worse trouble breathing and have concerns, call 111.

Key messages for end slide:

  • Stay away from others in your own room if possible.
  • Keep the room well ventilated with fresh air.
  • Use a separate toilet and bathroom, or use it after everyone else.
  • Disinfect and clean all surfaces you touch.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid shared household spaces like the kitchen or dining room.
  • Use separate cups, plates, glasses, etc and wash in very hot water.
  • If you have to share a space, everyone should wear a mask and keep a distance of 2 metres or more.

hn.org.nz/stopping-the-spread

Self-isolating in apartments, temporary or holiday accommodation

Further guidance is available here if you are COVID-19 positive and need to self-isolate in an apartment, multi-unit dwelling or temporary or holiday accommodation.

Guidance for people living in apartments and Body Corporate Committees

Guidance for people isolating in temporary or holiday accommodation and managers and owners

This guidance is based on international guidelines and best current evidence available as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Further updates may be made as new evidence emerges and in response to the level of community transmission in New Zealand.

When you can end your isolation

After 7 days, you can leave isolation if you are not feeling unwell.  If you still have symptoms, you are advised to stay at home until 24 hours after symptoms resolve. If symptoms persist, or worsen, contact your local healthcare provider or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. You may receive a text message confirming the end of your isolation. You do not need to wait for an official message or release to leave isolation. A negative RAT test is not required to return to work or school.

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