COVID-19: Information for Household and Close Contacts

Information on household and close contacts and when to isolate.

Last updated: 19 May 2022

In light of new variants of COVID-19, such as Omicron, the Ministry’s approach to case management and contact tracing will continue to be updated to minimise community transmission.

On this page:

Household Contacts

How will I know if I’m a Household Contact?

If you live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (a case) then you are likely to hear from them that you are a Household Contact.

You may receive a text message telling you that you are a household contact which will provide you with a link to find out what this means. If you have a NZ mobile, then these texts will come from either the 2328 or 2648 number. If you are concerned that a text is not genuine, you can call or email Healthline and request a call back.

You are a Household Contact if you:

  • normally share a residence with a person who has tested positive (either on a permanent or part time, or shared custody basis),
  • and you spent at least one night or day (more than 8 hours) in that residence while the person with COVID-19 was infectious.

It is expected that this includes people who live in shared houses and flats.

You are also a Household Contact if you don’t normally share a residence with the case but have spent a night together in the same room.

For people who are travelling or holidaying around New Zealand, this would also include sharing non-communal holiday accommodation such as a:

  • hotel room
  • tent
  • campervan
  • temporary holiday home (such as a bach, Airbnb or similar).

The following people are not considered Household Contacts, but may be Close Contacts (unless a Medical Officer of Health deems it appropriate to apply the Household Contact definition):

  • if they live in the same group accommodation as the case (for instance, halls of residences, boarding houses, hostels, backpackers, transitional housing etc).

What does it mean if I am a Household Contact?

If you are considered a Household Contact you must follow these steps (whether you are vaccinated against COVID-19 or not):

  • Isolate from the day that the first person in your household receives their positive test result, until they complete their 7 days of self-isolation and are released.
  • When the first case in your house gets to days 3 and 7 of their isolation, you need to get tested using a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).
  • If symptoms develop at any stage, you need to get tested using a RAT.
  • Avoid or minimise contact with the person with COVID-19 as much as possible during your isolation period.
  • You can end your self-isolation on the same day as the first ‘case’ in the household, provided you have no new or worsening symptoms and your tests were negative.
  • Your isolation does not restart if additional members of your household are identified as cases during the first case’s isolation period.
  • After the initial isolation period ends there is a 10-day window during which no Household Contacts of the original case can be re-classified as Household Contacts. You only need to begin isolation again during these 10 days if you test positive yourself.
  • More than 10 days after the original isolation period ends the usual rules apply. If a new household member (not the original case) tests positive, they and all other Household Contacts (who have not yet become cases themselves) must isolate for 7 days.

A case is exempt from becoming a Household Contact for 90 days after the onset of their infection.

The factsheet below provides helpful information on COVID-19 and precautions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. The fact sheet should be read together with the advice on self-isolation (viewable at Advice for people with COVID-19) and any specific advice that may be given to you by your doctor, Healthline (0800 358 5453) or public health official.

Healthcare and other critical Service Workers

If you are a household contact who is vaccinated and asymptomatic, and work for a health care provider or another critical service, you may be able to continue to work throughout your isolation period.

Healthcare providers should refer to Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak

Other critical services should refer to the  the Close Contact Exemption Scheme.

Household Contacts factsheet

Last updated 16 March 2022.

Close Contacts

How will I know if I’m a Close Contact?

You may be told that you are a close contact by someone you know who has tested positive for COVID-19, your employer, or your education provider.

You are considered a close contact if you have:

  • Been close (within 1.5 metres) to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes and they were not wearing a mask or was not wearing it properly,
  • Had direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva from the person with COVID-19 (for example, kissing, shared a cigarette, vape or drink bottle, or if the person coughed or sneezed directly on you) 
  • Spent time in an indoor space for more than 1 hour with the person with COVID-19 AND at least one of the following: 
    • the person with COVID-19 was singing, shouting, smoking, vaping, exercising, or dancing
    • the person with COVID-19 was not wearing a mask or wasn’t wearing it properly
    • the indoor space was poorly ventilated (i.e., there were no windows or doors open)
    • the indoor space was smaller than 100m2 (about three double garages)

The above only applies if you have been in contact with a COVID-19 case during their infectious period, which starts two days before their symptom onset or the date they were tested (if they have no symptoms) and finishes once they have completed their isolation.

What does it mean if I am a Close Contact?

If you have been told you are a close contact, then:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms for ten days
  • If symptoms develop at any time, you need to get tested immediately using a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

Close contacts are not required to isolate at the current time, but if you are unwell you should stay at home until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

If you have been identified as a close contact, you may choose to change your behaviour based on personal circumstances. This could include working from home, not visiting vulnerable family or friends, or isolating if you choose to. You can find advice here: Isolating from others

If you use the NZ COVID Tracer app and have Bluetooth enabled, you may get an orange alert telling you that you are a close contact. The alert will tell you what to do - it is important that you follow these instructions. Learn more about the NZ COVID Tracer app.

Information on how to contact Healthline if you are deaf or hard of hearing can be found at COVID-19: Information and advice for the deaf community.

Regardless of guidelines for testing and self-isolation, any time you develop symptoms of COVID-19 stay at home and get a test.

Financial and welfare support

If you are required to self-isolate the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is available to help you. Most people can manage self-isolation with help from whānau, family and friends. There may be financial help available if you need it. MSD can also connect you to local community organisations for help with food and other welfare needs.

Legal requirements

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self-isolation Requirements and Permitted Work) Order 2022 legally requires those who have been identified as household contacts to isolate at home. Read more about the health orders.

You can find out how your personal information is managed throughout the contact tracing process at COVID-19: Your privacy.

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