COVID-19: Older people, their family and whānau

What you need to know right now to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

17 November 2021: The health and disability workforce is currently under pressure due to the mandated vaccination order. Providers may have to reduce household management services and client visits to enable them to focus support to those most in need. If you receive home and community support services and are concerned about what this might mean, please communicate with your provider about your needs over the next few months.

See the Ministry of Health’s full advisory on Homes and Community Support Services.

Last updated: 14 June 2022

This is where you will find information specifically for older people and their family and whānau.

If you are a disability or aged care provider see Aged care and disability providers.

If you are looking for information for disabled people and their whānau see the Unite against COVID-19 website.

On this page:

COVID-19 is an infection caused by a type of coronavirus that’s spread like the flu from person to person. The symptoms are typically viral with fatigue, cold and flu like symptoms including tummy bug symptoms for some people.

Older people and people with some existing health conditions have a higher risk of more severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Read more about people at higher risk of severe illness.

Social connection and staying safe

It is important for your health and wellbeing that you connect and/or re-connect with family, whānau, friends and with other community groups and activities.

There are simple steps you can take to protect you and your family/whānau, such as staying home if you’re sick, wearing a mask, maintaining good hygiene practices, and avoiding crowded indoor places.

Community groups and organisations are there to help if you need support or further information about how to reconnect. Your local Age Concern could be a good place to start.

You may be interested in listening to the following podcast – Looking to the future – COVID-19 which discusses the importance of reconnecting with social activities and getting back into the community. 

You may be able to work if you agree with you employer that you can do so safely; however, you should take extra precautions. Discuss with your employer whether you can work from home, or other ways to keep safe while at work or travelling to work. You should also speak to your friends, family or local GP to make sure you are safe.

If you are feeling unwell, you should stay home. Call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to get advice on whether you should be tested.

Getting vaccinated

A person is significantly less likely to be severely sick, hospitalised or die if vaccinated, especially following the third (booster) dose. Vaccination also protects people against becoming infected and transmitting the virus to others.

Anyone aged 16 or older who has had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine can get their free booster vaccine. You can get vaccinated at walk-in sites or book a time to receive yours on the Book My Vaccine website, or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26.

There are many places around New Zealand where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment. You can find out information about walk-in and drive-through vaccination centres on the Unite Against COVID-19 website

If you are required to self-isolate or are not well reschedule your booking for a later date. Call 0800 28 29 26 or visit

Vaccine mandates remain in place for health and care workers who come into contact with a lot of people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Find out more about vaccinations.

Other protection practices

As the Omicron variant can still be contracted and transmitted by vaccinated people, other key public health measures remain important.

Face masks are one important way of keeping you safe. In general, we encourage you to wear a mask whenever you leave your home and cannot keep physical distance from others, especially in crowded indoor places.

Masks are required in most indoor settings, although they are no longer required outdoors. People can choose to wear a mask whenever they want to reduce their vulnerability.

Read more about masks and mask exemptions.

Other practices that help reduce the risk of infection and transmission of COVID include:

  • staying home when sick
  • improving ventilation
  • physical distancing
  • basic hygiene practices, such as washing hands.

Protecting yourself and others.

Making a plan

Even if you're up-to-date with your COVID019 vaccinations, should prepare for what you need to do if you get COVID-19.

Being ready for getting COVID-19 is about making sure you and your household have a plan and know what to do. It will mean your whānau and community can help each other if needed.

How to self-manage COVID-19 on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

My Vaccine Pass

My Vaccine Pass is an official record of your COVID-19 vaccination status for use in Aotearoa New Zealand. You can get your My Vaccine Pass online through My Covid Record, over the phone (0800 222 478) or in person at a pharmacy. You can find more information on How to get My Vaccine Pass on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

From 4 April 2022 you do not need to show your vaccine pass to access services and activities.

Testing and isolating

If you or the person you care for develops COVID-19 symptoms or are a household contact of someone with COVID-19, get tested immediately.

You will be able to order rapid antigen test (RAT) kits for home testing, if you or a household member has COVID-19 symptoms, or are a Household Contact.

RATS are free under the public health response for those who need a test – household contacts and people with symptoms. RATs can also be requested on behalf of someone else. 

Report your RAT result, even if it is negative, in My Covid Record or by calling 0800 222 478. Parents and caregivers are now able to report test results of children under 12 and other family members.

The isolation period for people who are household contacts is 7 days, with a test needed on days 3 and 7. Read more on the COVID-19 Health Hub.

Assistance when self isolating

  • Most people can manage self-isolation with help from whānau and friends, but there’s help available if you need it.
  • You can go to the Work and Income website and fill in a simple form to ask for the help you need.
  • OR you can call the COVID-19 welfare line on 0800 512 337. It’s available 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.

Testing positive

Most people with COVID-19 (particularly those who are up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations) are likely to have a mild to moderate illness and will be fine to recover at home. For those who need a bit more help, support will be available.

If you test positive with COVID-19 there are several ways that you can be identified as more vulnerable. You may already be well known to your healthcare provider as being at higher risk, Care community hubs and primary care prioritise vulnerable people for initial assessment and any subsequent follow-ups.

It’s important the health questions in the self-assessment form you receive if you get COVID-19 are filled out. If you can't use the online form or would prefer not to, you can call 800 555 278 for assistance to complete the form.

Information and tools available for people who test positive for COVID-19:

If the symptoms get worse or you need urgent medical care, call your local healthcare provider or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. If you or the person you are caring for develops difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately.

Medicines for treating COVID-19

There are medicines available to help treat COVID-19 symptoms and reduce the risk hospitalisation for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. These medicines need to be taken within five days of a person first developing symptoms for COVID-19.

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have other health issues or long-term conditions, talk to your GP, community pharmacy, or health care provider as soon as possible. They will advise if COVID-19 medicines are suitable for you..

More information: About COVID-19 medicines and on Higher risk people.

Isolating to protect those at risk

If somebody in your household or whare has COVID-19, you need to keep your distance from them to reduce your risk of getting sick. Older people and people with some existing health conditions or those who have a disability may experience more severe symptoms so it's best they avoid catching COVID-19 if possible.

This video shows how to isolate safely if you or those you live with someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19.

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.

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.

Getting food, supplies and medicines

As an older person you may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as you may have underlying health issues, therefore you might decide to reach out to friends, family and neighbours for support. Remember to follow good hygiene practices, keep your distance from people you don’t know, and stay home if you’re unwell.

There are also several support services available who can help you access services you need:

COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights)

COVID-19 is likely to be with us for some time. We must be aware and manage the risks for ourselves and the people we care for. In New Zealand, our COVID-19 Protection Framework or ‘traffic light’ system is used to describe the level of risk and the restrictions that must be followed at each colour. Stay informed about New Zealand’s current alert levels and find out what this means for you and those you support on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

On 25th March 2022 there were changes announced for traffic light system.

There is no longer a requirement to scan in or for a business to display a QR code poster or have mandatory record keeping.

There is no requirement to use My Vaccine Pass, however, businesses will still be able to use the system if they would like to.

Government vaccine mandates for workers have been removed for workers, apart from health and disability sector workers, prison staff, border and MIQ workers.

Masks are no longer required outside.

Find further information on the COVID-19 website.

Green – mild impact

If your community is at Green there is limited COVID-19 community transmission. 

There are no restrictions. You are encouraged to keep up good health behaviours.

Orange – moderate impact

If your community is at Orange there is community transmission that is putting pressure on the health system. Risk to some populations may be increasing.

Face masks are mandatory on flights, public transport, in taxis, retail, public venues and encouraged elsewhere.

There is no limit for indoor gatherings and events

Find more information on life at Orange on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Red – severe impact

If your community is at Red action is needed to protect at-risk people and protect our health system.

Face coverings are mandatory on flights, public transport, in taxis, retail, education (Year 4 and up, including tertiary), public venues and encouraged elsewhere.

There is a 200-person limit for indoor gatherings and events.

Find more information about life at Red on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Services in the health and disability system

You can access health services as usual, however some non-urgent health services might be delivered in a different way – by phone or video call. This is to ensure health care workers are protected and can help where they are most needed. Contact the health service to see what level of service you they can offer.

Mental health and wellbeing resources 

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on how we interact with others and go about our daily lives. We know that this, combined with the stress of uncertainty can have an impact on our mental wellbeing. For information and resources to support your mental health and wellbeing, see Mental health and wellbeing resources.

If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. Call your regular health care provider or for support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.

Caring for a person with dementia at home

If you or your whānau are caring for someone with dementia at home, information about ways to ensure you and the person with dementia can stay well can be found at Supporting a person with dementia at home.

If you or the person you are caring for require further support or information contact your local Alzheimers or dementia organisation.

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