COVID-19: Information for Household and Close Contacts

Information and advice for household and close contacts

Last updated: 13 September 2022

If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 as a household or close contact you no longer need to isolate, but there are testing recommendations for household contacts, and it is recommended that you wear a mask when leaving home.

Household contacts should test daily for five days with a rapid antigen test (RAT) from the day the first person in your household receives a positive result for COVID-19. If any of your results are positive, then you must isolate for seven days and follow public health advice.

Household contacts

Who is a household contact?

You’re a household contact if you:

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

This includes people who live in shared houses and flats.

For people who are travelling or holidaying around New Zealand, this also includes people 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).

A case is considered infectious from 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.

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.

What to do if you are a household contact

  • Test daily using a rapid antigen test (RAT) for five days from the day that the person in your household tested positive.
  • Avoid or minimise contact with the person with COVID-19 as much as possible during their isolation period.
  • Wear a mask whenever you leave home. Wearing a mask is particularly important when visiting vulnerable people, like elderly or immunocompromised people, using public transport or when in a crowded indoor space. 
  • Monitor for symptoms for 10 days.
  • Go about your normal daily activities, provided you have no symptoms and your tests are negative.

If you develop COVID-19 like symptoms at any time, or are unwell:

  • test and stay at home until 24 hours after your symptoms resolve
  • if you test positive, you will need to isolate for seven days.

You do not need to restart daily testing if additional members of your household are identified as cases during the first case’s seven-day isolation period.

After the first case is released from isolation there is a 10-day period when you will not be considered a household contact even if someone else in your house tests positive.

If a new household member (not the original case) tests positive, they must isolate for seven days.

If it’s been 29 days or more since your infection, and someone in your household tests positive, then you’re considered a household contact and you should test daily for five days.

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 to do if you are a close contact

You are a close contact if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 while they were infectious. Close contacts should:

  • 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, 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.

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 Unite against COVID-19.

Any time you develop symptoms of COVID-19 stay at home and get a test.

What does staying at home mean?

Staying at home is defined as staying within your home or residence:

  • If you have symptoms, try to stay away from your household members where possible. 
  • You should not go to work or school. If you are unable to work from home while you are unwell, or awaiting test results, talk to your employer about your options. 
  • If you need medical assistance, call ahead to your health provider and let them know you are unwell. Clean your hands with hand sanitiser and put on a face mask before you enter any health care facility. 

If you have been advised to stay at home after a PCR test, you should do so until you receive a negative test result.

Legal requirements

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

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