The Ministry of Health has established a long COVID programme with the goal of supporting patients with long COVID in the New Zealand context.
Most people with COVID-19 recover within 2–6 weeks. For others, a full recovery will take up to 12 weeks. Some people report a diverse range of symptoms for weeks or months after the expected recovery period. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the clinical definition of long COVID is ongoing symptoms that continue 12 weeks or more after infection with SARS-CoV-2.
The long COVID programme has been established to disseminate emerging models of care, clinical practice, patient self-management and digital enablement to support patients with long COVID in New Zealand.
The programme is based on the following principles:
- giving effect to our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including considering the interests and needs of Māori
- ensuring equity, which involves inclusiveness for all communities, particularly those most affected by COVID-19 outbreaks (ie, Māori and Pacific peoples)
- ensuring equity of access to services and outcomes,
- ensuring services are effective, timely and reflect best-practice as the evidence emerges
- ensuring services are patient centred, including patient self-management and digital enablement to support patients with long COVID
- long COVID symptoms are investigated, treated, and funded in the same way as other long-term conditions.
Within the work programme, four workstreams are underway to support the development of the long COVID rehabilitation and service delivery guidance for Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Development of a service development toolkit (also known as a change package), including monitoring health districts with existing specific services for long COVID
- Establishing an Expert Advisory Group to provide guidance and input into the long COVID rehabilitation guideline, with broad representation from Māori, Pacific peoples, researchers, clinicians, service providers and people with lived experience.
- Monitoring emerging evidence to inform clinical pathways to identify and manage long COVID
- Ongoing research to identify gaps that are particular to Aotearoa New Zealand and identify options for how they might be addressed.
- Presentation on the Ministry of Health’s approach to long COVID – 7 April 2022 (PDF, 261 KB)
- Presentation on the Ministry of Health’s approach to long COVID – 7 April 2022 (Powerpoint, 747 KB)
- 27 April 2022
Long COVID Expert Group
The Ministry has established the Long COVID Expert Advisory Group to assess the evidence on long COVID and apply it to the Aotearoa New Zealand context, to help inform recommendations for clinical practice and guidelines. The group will provide oversight, with broad representation from Māori, Pacific peoples, researchers consumers, clinicians, and service providers.
The Ministry has published the following guidelines:
- Clinical Rehabilitation Guideline for People with Long COVID in Aotearoa New Zealand
15 September 2022
- Guidance for the Acute Phase of Rehabilitation of People with or Recovering from COVID 19 in Aotearoa New Zealand
30 June 2022
Teams within the Ministry of Health also produce a long COVID evidence brief which is updated over time. This document is accessible on the COVID-19: Science News page.
The Ministry of Health has funded a number of research projects on the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and future pandemic responses. In August 2021, Victoria University of Wellington was funded to undertake the “Impacts of COVID-19 in Aotearoa—Ngā Kawekawe o Mate Korona” study. This study aims to understand the experiences of people in Aotearoa New Zealand who have had COVID-19, and to learn about the short and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of individuals, whānau and families.
The study focuses particularly on Māori, Pacific peoples, people with disabilities (including long COVID), and people who developed COVID-19 through their employment. The study was completed in August 2022 with its findings recently made available. The report puts forward 33 recommendations for planning for future pandemic preparedness. The lead health agencies will work together to consider the recommendations of the study and explore an implementation plan for agreed outcomes.
Ngā Kawekawe o Mate Korona Impacts of COVID-19 report
More recently, the following projects were funded by the Ministry:
- LOGIC study: LOnG term health Impact of COVID-19: Waikato Hospital Cohort
- Burden of Long COVID in Aotearoa New Zealand: Establishing a Registry
These projects focus specifically on long COVID, other funded projects include long COVID within their research scope. The outcomes of these studies will be used to help inform responses to long COVID, and future pandemic preparedness.
A brief overview of the funded projects: COVID-19 and National Immunisation Programme research projects