Alert Level 3 questions and answers

Answers to common questions about health and disability services at Alert Level 3.

Last updated: 12 August 2020

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Cancer and other treatments

What happens with my cancer treatment?

Patients can travel locally or to other parts of the country for cancer treatment. It is a good idea to carry a doctor's letter or other documentation about your treatment while travelling.

If you are using district health board national travel assistance, contact the coordinator to make sure they can provide the necessary transport and accommodation.

If you think you might have COVID-19, check with your doctor. COVID-19 can be very serious for people who have weakened immune systems. It is important that your doctor weighs up the benefits of the cancer treatment against its immunosuppressive risks.

For cancer patients who are unwell:

  • phone your cancer clinic to let them know you are unwell
  • if you are sick, hospital is still the safest place to be. Make sure you phone the hospital before you go there.

For cancer patients who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19:

  • most outpatient appointments will be virtual consultations, such as a phone conversation. You will be contacted by your cancer clinic with the details
  • your doctor will contact you to discuss your treatment.

It is important that you do not stop or make changes to your cancer treatment without talking to your doctor.

Why has the treatment for my health condition stopped?

No treatment should have stopped without discussion. Your treatment may have been postponed or an alternative treatment suggested. Please talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

All services are working hard to provide health care, while protecting people from COVID-19. However, there may be disruptions to treatment - for example, health workers may have needed to self-isolate.

Hospitals across the country have had different requirements placed on them by COVID-19, so specific treatments may be handled differently in each hospital. The Ministry of Health is supporting district health boards to provide the best care possible, during this time.


Visiting family or friends

Can I visit a family member who is dying in hospital or in Aged Residential Care?

Visiting people who are end of life/palliative care patients in hospitals at Orange level or Aged Residential Care at Alert Level 3 is allowed, but on a case-by-case basis, subject to public health direction and provider assessment. This must be within the Alert Level 3 region.

Visits are by appointment only and with a maximum of one family member visiting at one time.

Can I visit family or friends in residential aged care facilities?

There will be no general family visits allowed at Alert Level 3, due to increased risk for residents and staff. Only family visits for end of life/palliative care residents are allowed, but on a case-by-case basis, subject to public health direction and provider assessment.

When visiting, it is important to follow Alert Level 3 precautions such as good hand hygiene, cough/sneezing into elbow/tissues, and physical distancing of 2 metres. 

Can family or friends visit people in disability residential services?

Families will need to discuss with disability providers. Controlled visits with agreed and named family and whānau and close friends may be allowed.

Visitors’ details must be recorded, in case contact tracing is necessary. The visit will be pre-arranged or booked and the visitor will register at reception or with the in-house manager.

More specific information will be ready shortly. 

Can I visit family or friends in hospital?

The number of visitors allowed per patient per day depends on where they are, and discretion may be applied on a case by case basis. Check with the DHB first.

The National Hospital Visitors Policy is based on the National Hospital Response Framework, which has its own colour-coded framework to guide who can visit friends or family and under what circumstances. The COVID-19 alert level framework for hospitals is explained below:

  • ORANGE Alert Level: A maximum of one visitor at any one time may visit a patient at the hospital or clinic. No non-essential visitors. For high risk areas (ED/Intensive Care Unit (ICU)/NICU/SCBU/Maternity (Antenatal Inpatient and Postnatal ward)/Aged Care or any ward with COVID-19 positive patients), a maximum of one visitor at a time will be allowed, and only one visit per day.
  • GREEN or YELLOW Alert Level: A maximum of two visitors at any one time may visit a patient at the hospital or clinic. For high risk areas (ED/Intensive Care Unit (ICU)/NICU/SCBU/Maternity (Antenatal Inpatient and Postnatal ward)/Aged Care or any ward with COVID-19 positive patients), a maximum of one visitor at a time will be allowed, and only one visit per day.

Visiting must take place during usual visiting hours, unless there is a prior arrangement with the ward. When visiting relatives in hospitals it is important to follow level 3 precautions such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing of 2 metres.

The hospital will record visitors’ details, in case contact tracing is necessary. Visitors should be aware that they will be asked screening questions and may be refused entry to ensure patient, staff and public safety. 

Can I visit family or friends under maternity care?

Women in labour in a maternity facility will be allowed one support person for the duration of the labour and birth.

Visitors during a postnatal stay in a maternity facility is the same as under the National Hospital Visitors Policy.

Can someone visit a family member who is in a hospice?

Family visits for residents in a hospice are allowed, but on a case-by-case basis, subject to public health direction and the hospice's assessment.

The Ministry is working with the hospice sector to develop further guidance.

Can a priest, imam or religious celebrant provide last rites in a hospital, hospice, or private residence under Alert Level 3? 

Yes – priests, imam and religious celebrants can provide last rites in a hospital, hospice or private residence under Alert Level 3.

If the person who is dying is in a health facility, they have to adhere with the visiting policy of the health facility and the relevant infection prevention and control procedures. 


Mental health

Where can I get help for my mental wellbeing?

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on how we interact with others and go about our lives. We know that a combination of stress and uncertainty can have significant and wide-reaching impacts on people’s mental wellbeing.

There is information and tools available to help you feel mentally well and get through.

Can I access mental health services?

Community mental health services will use virtual or telephone appointments where possible. Face-to-face appointments may be provided if the health professionals and support staff can take appropriate measures to manage public health risks.

Urgent services will operate as usual.


In-home and disability services

Can my in-home care services continue?

Essential personal care services, such as toileting, washing and feeding, are provided as usual. Some home help, such as house cleaning, may be available, depending on individual circumstances. People providing these services must follow Alert Level 3 precautions, such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing of 2 metres.

Urgent disability related equipment will also be provided. Wearing a mask (which may be either disposable or washable) if in ongoing close contact with others is now advised as well. See How to use a face mask safely.

Can other disability services open?

Essential disability services can continue to operate, for example, to provide urgent disability related equipment.

Disability services where people from different bubbles group together are closed. This includes day services and facility-based respite. All other disability services provided that follow Alert Level 3 restrictions and requirements can open.

If disabled people and their families and whānau cannot access their usual supports, or would like to access a different kind of disability support during COVID-19, please see Getting disability support.


Accessing health services

Where can I get tested for COVID-19 at Alert Level 3?

Testing for COVID-19 is done at Community Based Assessment Centres, designated practices, and general practices where it is appropriate to do so.

Can I see my doctor at Alert Level 3?

General practices remain open in all alert levels for COVID-19. Appointments will be conducted online or by telephone where possible, with face-to-face consultations available if required.

Can I get a flu vaccine?

Yes – contact your general practice or pharmacy. Priority is given to vulnerable populations; see the Influenza page for more information.

Can I go to the dentist?

Non-essential and elective dental care will not be provided under Alert Level 3. 

Dental services may provide face-to-face appointments for urgent or emergency care if dental professionals take appropriate measures to manage public health risks, such as using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) according to clinical guidance.

Can I see a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath, optometrist or podiatrist? Will they be able to physically treat me?

These appointments will be mainly online or over the phone. Some face-to-face appointments may be provided for urgent appointments only if health professionals take measures to manage public health risks. 

Can I visit a skin care specialist if I'm concerned about moles?

Please check with your general practice first.

Can I see my midwife in person?

Discuss this with your midwife. Community midwives will provide services in a variety of ways, including face-to-face and on-line appointments. Antenatal and newborn screening programmes will continue.

Can I visit a medical practice for non-emergency procedures?

General practices are open, but appointments will be conducted online or by phone where possible. You can see your doctor or nurse face-to-face if required.

Essential care continues, such as management of long-term conditions, mental health consultations, prescriptions of medication, the treatment of common illness, influenza vaccinations and childhood immunisations, and cervical screening. 

Can I access drug and alcohol services in person?

Yes, if necessary.

Can I get my child or myself immunised?

Yes – essential preventative care including childhood immunisations continue.

I need a repeat prescription, can I pick this up? Can I get contraception prescribed?

Yes – pharmacies and general practices are open. Virtual appointments will be conducted where possible and repeat prescriptions can be issued online.

Can a medical specialist visit me at home for non-urgent treatment?

Medical specialists can only do home visits for urgent and non-deferrable care, including palliative care.

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