COVID-19: Legislation and Orders

Information on the legal and regulatory instruments issued by the Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated: 29 November 2022

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Epidemic Notice

In March 2020, the Prime Minister issued an Epidemic Notice under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006. This was based on advice received from the Director-General of Health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Epidemic Notice expired at 12.01am on 20 October 2022.

What is an Epidemic Notice?

An Epidemic Notice is a public policy tool to help Government agencies respond swiftly and effectively in a rapidly evolving situation. An epidemic notice enables the use of a number of ‘special powers’ in legislation.

An Epidemic Notice must be renewed every 3 months to stop it expiring unless an earlier date is stated in the latest renewal, or by the Prime Minister in a further notice.

To renew the Epidemic Notice the Prime Minister must be satisfied that the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are likely to continue to disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand (or parts of New Zealand) significantly.

The link below sets out the most recent Epidemic Notice that expired on 20 October 2022.


Prime Minister’s Authorisation

Under section 8 (c) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act, the Prime Minister can authorise the use of COVID-19 orders, if satisfied that there is a risk of an outbreak or the spread of COVID-19.

On 17 October 2022, the Prime Minister authorised the use of COVID-19 orders for the following measures until 20 January 2023.

  • Self-isolation for cases
  • Point-of-care tests regulation
  • Mask requirements for visitors to healthcare settings.

COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 (the COVID-19 Act) provides a legal framework for responding to COVID-19. The Act allows the Minister for COVID-19 Response to make orders under section 11 to give effect to the public health response to COVID-19 in New Zealand.

COVID-19 Amendment Act

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Extension of Act and Reduction of Powers) Amendment Act 2022 came into effect on 26 November 2022 and scales back the government’s previous COVID-19 powers. It ensures the legal framework for public health measures reflects that New Zealand is through the emergency phase of its response.

The measures needed at the start of the pandemic to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as lockdowns and Managed Isolation and Quarantine are no longer needed as there are now a range of other tools available to manage the virus within communities such as vaccination and antivirals.

The Act retains the ability to implement some limited public health measures to manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and potential new variants, for example through self-isolation and mask requirements, and requirements as necessary on travellers to New Zealand.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 was due to expire in May 2023 but the COVID-19 Amendment Act extends the expiry date to 26 November 2024.

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2021

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2021 are made under the COVID-19 Act. The regulations set out three classes of infringement offence and penalties for each class and applies the classes to the infringement offences in the COVID-19 Act.

Authorisations of Enforcement Officers under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

The Director-General may authorise suitably qualified and trained individuals to carry out any functions and powers as enforcement officers under section 18 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020. The Director-General has currently authorised three classes of persons as enforcement officers. Those classes of people are:

  1. WorkSafe inspectors
  2. Aviation Security officers
  3. Customs officers
  4. members of the Armed Forces
  5. COVID-19 Enforcement Officers (Maritime Border).

The authorisations describe the class of people that are authorised as enforcement officers, the powers (available under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act) that they may exercise, and the functions which they may carry out:

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self-isolation Requirements) Order 2022

This order is made by the Minister for COVID-19 Response under sections 11 and 15(1) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 in accordance with section 9 of that Act. This order sets out the self-isolation requirements for cases of COVID-19.

Director-General of Health Notices pursuant to the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self-isolation Requirements) Order 2022

The following was issued by the Director-General of Health pursuant to clause 30 and clause 27A of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self isolation Requirements) Order 2022 for critical workers delivering a critical health service who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. It comes into force from 20 March 2022.

The following notice was issued by the Director-General of Health pursuant to clause 30 and clause 13(4)(a)(iii) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Self-isolation Requirements) Order 2022 for COVID-19 cases. It came into force from 20 June 2022. This notice permits COVID-19 cases to leave their place of self-isolation to undertake essential permitted movement

COVID-19 cases self-isolating are permitted to change their place of self-isolation if:

  • they are isolating on a ship (that isn’t a cruise ship) and want to self-isolate somewhere that isn’t a ship (as permitted under section 13A(1)(a))
  • they are isolating in a cabin on a cruise ship and want to move to self-isolate somewhere that isn’t a ship (as permitted under section 13A(1A))
  • they need to preserve their own or someone else’s life, health or safety (section 13(2)(e)).

The below notice includes the conditions required when changing a place of self-isolation.


Border Orders

Air Border Order

The Air Border Order 2021 was revoked at 12:01am on 20 October 2022.

Maritime Border Order

The Maritime Border Order 2020 was revoked at 11:59pm 12 September 2022.

Health Act 1956 exemption for ships

This Director-General of Health Notice exempts all ships with COVID-19 onboard from section 107(1) of the Health Act, on the condition that no other quarantinable disease is confirmed or suspected to exist onboard the ship. The exemption applies to all categories of vessels and does not undermine the existing pratique process for other quarantinable infectious diseases. 


Masks Order

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Masks) Order 2022 came into effect on 11.59pm 12 September. This order sets out that visitors must wear face masks when they are at health service premises.

Point of Care Test Order and notices

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021 came into force 22 April 2021. This order prohibits a person from importing, manufacturing, supplying, selling, packing, or using a point-of-care test for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 unless the Director-General of Health has:

  • authorised the person’s activity; or
  • exempted the point-of-care test from the prohibition.

Find out more at COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021.

Authorisation of import of Point of Care Tests for limited use under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021

This notice takes effect at 11.59pm on 27 February 2022.

Authorisations for importing, supplying, selling and using of point-of-care tests under clause 8(1) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021

The Director-General may authorise (otherwise prohibited under clause 7) any person or classes of persons to import, manufacture, supply, sell, pack, or use a point-of-care test for the purpose of testing for COVID-19 under clause 8(1) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021. The Director-General, on 2 December 2021, has authorised the following persons or classes of persons in the attached Notice to do the listed activities.


COVID-19 Order Exemptions

Class-based exemptions from the requirements of orders made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 are published in the New Zealand Gazette.

Current exemptions are posted below.


Medicines Act 1981

Notice under Section 34A of the Medicines Act 1981 authorising off-label administration of COVID-19 Vaccine – Māori and Pacific people aged 40 to 49

This notice authorises the administration of a fourth dose of Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty, Tozinameran, BNT162b2) vaccine or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid after a primary course and first booster dose to Māori and Pacific people aged 40 to 49 years, to broaden access to booster doses for groups at greater risk from COVID-19 and thereby helping to manage the risks associated with the outbreak and spread of COVID-19.

Section 34A of the Medicines Amendment Act 1981 provides for the Director-General of Health to authorise the administration of already consented COVID-19 vaccines (consented under sections 20 or 23 of the Medicines Act 1981) to any people specified in the notice.

The section requires the Director-General to be satisfied that the proposed administration of the COVID-19 vaccine is an appropriate measure to manage the risks associated with the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, and to have regard to the therapeutic value of the administration versus any risks to any person of receiving a vaccine.

Notice under Section 34A of the Medicines Act 1981 authorising off-label administration of COVID-19 Vaccine – interval between second and third doses

The Notice authorises the ongoing delivery of third (or booster) doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the reduced 3-month dose interval since completion of a primary COVID-19 vaccine course.

Notice under Section 34A of the Medicines Act 1981 authorising off-label administration of COVID-19 Vaccine – fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine

The notice for at-risk groups recommended to receive a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, authorised by the Director-General of Health under s34A of the Medicines Amendment Act 1981.

Section 34A of the Medicines Amendment Act 1981 provides for the Director-General of Health to authorise the administration of already consented COVID-19 vaccines (consented under sections 20 or 23 of the Medicines Act 1981) to any people specified in the notice.

The section requires the Director-General to be satisfied that the proposed administration of the COVID-19 vaccine is an appropriate measure to manage the risks associated with the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, and to have regard to the therapeutic value of the administration versus any risks to any person of receiving a vaccine.

This notice sets out the recommended groups the Director-General has authorised to receive a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to boost immunity and continue to be as protected as possible against COVID-19. No person in these groups is required under any Order to receive a fourth dose, but those in the recommended groups will be able to access a fourth dose at any available COVID-19 vaccination site.

Notice under Section 34A of the Medicines Act 1981 authorising off-label administration of COVID-19 Vaccine Nuvaxovid

This notice authorises the administration of a fourth dose of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid on the same basis as the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, to broaden access to booster doses for groups at greater risk from COVID-19 and thereby helping to manage the risks associated with the outbreak and spread of COVID-19.

Section 34A of the Medicines Amendment Act 1981 provides for the Director-General of Health to authorise the administration of already consented COVID-19 vaccines (consented under sections 20 or 23 of the Medicines Act 1981) to any people specified in the notice.

The section requires the Director-General to be satisfied that the proposed administration of the COVID-19 vaccine is an appropriate measure to manage the risks associated with the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, and to have regard to the therapeutic value of the administration versus any risks to any person of receiving a vaccine.

In this section

  • The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021 prohibits a person from importing, manufacturing, supplying, selling, packing, or using a point-of-care test for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 unless the Director-General of Health has authorised the person’s activity or exempted the point-of-care test from the prohibition. Read more
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