Health and disability services at Alert Level 3

Information on how we access health and disability services at Alert Level 3.

Alert Levels update

Auckland and parts of Waikato are at Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand is at Alert Level 2.

Information about what to do at different alert levels can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Last updated: 1 September 2021

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At Alert Level 3

Key things to understand 

  • If you are unwell you should stay at home and seek medical advice.
  • Strict hygiene measures and physical distancing measures remain in place. 
  • Even if you have been vaccinated, you still need to follow the rules to keep everyone safe.
  • Essential businesses and services can operate but should have systems and processes in place to ensure appropriate physical distancing is maintained and contact tracing is supported.
  • Masks and face coverings are legally required at Alert Level 3 in more circumstances than Alert Level 4 (see the details in Masks and face coverings). Note that scarfs or bandanas are not recommended by the Ministry of Health.
  • Face coverings are also strongly encouraged at any time when you are outside your home, especially if you cannot maintain physical distancing.
  • Keep track of where you’ve been – use the NZ COVID tracer app if you can.

Find out more about the Alert Level 3 requirements at Unite Against COVID-19.


Healthcare at Alert level 3

  • Hospitals operate in line with the National Hospital Response Framework. 
  • Primary and community health providers will operate in line with the Community Response Framework. 
  • Infection prevention and control principles must be adhered to across the system.
  • Masks or face coverings are legally required by visitors to health and aged care facilities.
  • Urgent acute care is conducted in person, maintaining infection prevention control.
  • If it’s a medical emergency – call 111. (A medical emergency includes chest pain or tightness, difficulty breathing, choking, severe bleeding or bleeding that won’t stop, sudden weakness or difficulty talking, fainting or unconsciousness). Emergency ambulance services continue to operate across New Zealand at all alert levels.
  • Testing for COVID-19 will continue at community-based assessment centres, designated practices, and some general practices.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations will continue under alert level 3 conditions. You can call the COVID-19 vaccination advice line 0800 28 29 26 (8am - 8pm 7 days a week)
  • Immunisation and screening programmes continue where it is possible to provide “green stream” care.
  • Community health providers deliver routine care via telehealth. 
  • Pharmacies remain open. 
  • The public can call the:
    • COVID-19 Healthline (0800 358 5453) for COVID 19 health advice anytime.
    • Healthline 0800 611 116 for other health advice and information, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Note: If you are unsure about what you can access in your area, please contact your local DHB or GP who can provide advice on appointments, visitor arrangements etc

Hospitals 

  • Hospitals operate in line with the National Hospital Response Framework
  • If you need urgent medical attention – such as a medical emergency or going into labour –follow the normal procedures. For emergencies call 111 for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
  • Urgent acute care is conducted in person, maintaining infection prevention control.
  • Outpatient appointments continue but will be mainly online or over the phone.
  • Routine treatment or healthcare appointments may be rescheduled
  • Elective surgery and non-essential outpatient hospital appointments are postponed
  • Cancer treatment will continue. For more information please visit Te Aho o Te Kahu, Cancer Control Agency
  • Visitors should check with the DHB first about whether visitors are allowed, as this may vary by ward in the hospital.
  • Masks or face coverings are legally required by visitors to health and aged care facilities.

Emergency ambulance services

  • Emergency ambulance services, including road ambulance and air ambulance, continue to operate throughout all COVID-19 alert levels.
  • Emergency road ambulance services are provided by St John and Wellington Free Ambulance (for Wellington and the Wairarapa).
  • All emergency ambulance providers adhere to strict infection prevention and control principles to help protect paramedics and patients from the risk of COVID-19.
  • Please tell the call taker and paramedics if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. This will ensure that they able to use the appropriate PPE (eg, masks and gloves) to keep themselves and others safe while treating and transporting you. 

General practices

General practices will be open, and your doctor or nurse will continue to be available. Most consultations will be done via video call, phone or patient portal with face to face only when absolutely necessary.

It is important to still contact your health professional as you normally would. When you call, your clinic will likely ask some questions to decide if an online, phone or in person appointment is required.

  • For afterhours advice the public can call the
    • COVID-19 Healthline (0800 358 5453) for COVID 19 health advice, 24 hours every day.
    • Healthline 0800 611 116 for other health advice and information, 24 hours every day.

You will continue to receive care for urgent issues, management of long-term conditions, mental health consultations, prescriptions of medication and the treatment of common illness. You can access all the treatments, vaccinations and medicines you need to stay well, whether or not the care you need relates to COVID-19. Specifically, childhood immunisations are encouraged to continue. You will be referred to specialist care for further treatment as needed.

When you make an appointment that requires a visit in person, you will be asked questions around possible COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, this is to keep you and others safe.

Masks or face coverings are legally required by visitors to health and aged care facilities.


Screening services

Screening programmes are continuing to operate, with appropriate safeguards in place to keep participants and staff safe. It is recommended that people with pre-existing medical conditions, check with their health professional as to whether it is safe to attend appointments.  

  • Cervical and breast screening will continue for most women. The decision to screen those with existing medical conditions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Bowel screening invitations and home testing kits will continue to be sent out. If you receive a kit in the mail you should complete it and send it back as soon as possible.
  • Antenatal and newborn screening programmes are considered high priority and will continue to operate across all COVID-19 alert levels, but with some changes as appropriate to ensure that health staff, women and babies are kept safe.

More information about antenatal and newborn screen programmes can be found on the National Screening Unit website.

More information about bowel, breast and cervical screening can be found on the Time to Screen website.


Community health services

  • Primary and community health providers will operate in line with the Community Response Framework.
  • Only urgent acute care is conducted in person, maintaining public health guidelines. Routine treatment or healthcare appointments are prioritised to those with highest need and conducted via phone or video calls where possible.
  • Community pharmacies remain open, but medicine management services will be provided over the phone where possible. Medicines may continue to be delivered to some people.
  • Community midwives will provide services in a variety of ways, including face-to-face and on-line appointments.
  • Community dental services will provide face-to-face appointments for urgent and emergency care which cannot be deferred or managed with medication. Updates are provided on the Dental Council website.
  • Appointments for allied health services such as physiotherapy, podiatry, optometry and Well Child Tamaraki Ora services will continue to be mainly online or over the phone. Some face-to-face appointments may be arranged on a case-by-case basis, so long as professionals can take appropriate measures to manage public health risks

Disability and aged care services 

  • Disability and aged residential care are essential services so continue. 
  • Masks or face coverings are legally required by visitors to health and aged care facilities.
  • Masks or face coverings are recommended for people who receive home care services if they can tolerate it.
  • Essential personal care services, such as toileting, washing and feeding, will be provided as usual with the use of PPE.
  • Essential home help is allowed where the disabled person’s wellbeing is at risk without it. This can be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • NASCs should provide services in alternative ways, although essential visits are allowed under Alert Level 3 if this can be done safely.
  • Equipment and Modification services a Under Alert Level 3: essential equipment can be provided that can be delivered to a person's home and safely set up by the people in that home. Providing more complex equipment will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Urgent housing modifications that can be done safely can go ahead. Vehicle modification requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Specialist Behaviour Support is available over the phone 0800 000 421
  • Audiology services can only carry out face to face assessments for urgent care.
  • For other disability services (including Day Services, Disability Information Advisory Services, Child Development Services etc) non-essential support should be provided in alternative ways (e.g. virtually, remotely) essential visits are allowed under Alert Level 3 if this can be done safely, ensuring physical distancing, good hygiene and infection control practices, and the ability to support contact tracing.
  • Planned respite services will be suspended, but urgent respite care may be provided.
  • Support persons are permitted under right 8 of the Health and Disability Code.  
  • For aged residential care, hospices and disability residential care facilities, family visits are not currently permitted
  • Family visits on compassionate grounds will be considered, such as in a palliative situation, on a case-by-case basis, subject to public health advice and provider assessment and decision.
  • NGO delivered services, such as social connection, health promotion and education activities are suspended, however other non-contact ways of providing this support are encouraged, such as ZOOM or by phone.
  • Retirement Villages operate within the same restrictions as the wider community, with on-site facilities closed. See advice for Older people at Alert level 3 and 4.

Also see COVID-19: Information for disabled people and their family and whānau


Mental health and addiction services

  • Inpatient and residential mental health and addiction services will operate as usual, although there may be fewer beds available, to reduce the possibility of transmission.
  • Community mental health service appointments will be online or by phone where possible.
  • Urgent and crisis community mental health services will continue as usual.
  • There is a range of welfare, mental health and wellbeing programmes underway to provide support to New Zealanders. Read more: COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing resources

More information on Alert Level 3

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