Contact tracing for COVID-19

Information on how contact tracing works including who are close contacts, who are casual contacts and when to isolate.

Last updated: 23 December 2020

All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1.

Continue using the NZ COVID Tracer app or keep a record of the places you’ve been.

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What contact tracing is

Most cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand have come from overseas. Once a case has been identified, the Ministry of Health and district health boards track down people who may have been exposed to the virus through a process called contact tracing.

Health services use contact tracing to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease. There are two types of ‘contacts’ – close contacts and casual contacts. Health services give advice to both of these contact types on what they need to do.

Contact tracing phone calls

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you can expect to be contacted by the Ministry of Health or your local district health board's public health unit (PHU). 

We call this ‘contact tracing’. Contact tracing involves a phone call from the Ministry or PHU providing you with advice on self-isolation and checking on your health and wellbeing. The Ministry call centre staff will identify themselves and inform you that they are calling from the National Investigation and Tracing Centre (NITC). They will also verify your name and contact details. These calls from the Ministry's call centre staff will usually come from 09 801 3009 or 09 306 8748.

Following this initial phone call, your details may be passed onto Healthline who will make follow up calls during your isolation period to check how you are doing. The calls from Healthline will usually come from 09 302 0408, 09 306 8750 or 09 306 8748. There may be a delay before your call is connected. If you are concerned that a call from Healthline isn’t genuine, you can email Healthline and request a call back. 

It is important to answer your phone, so the PHU, Ministry and Healthline can get in touch with you during this time. 

Close contacts

Close contacts are those that are likely to be at a higher risk of being infected.

‘Close contact’ is defined as any person with the following exposure to a confirmed or probable case during the case’s infectious period, without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • direct contact with the body fluids or the laboratory specimens of a case
  • presence in the same room in a health care setting when an aerosol-generating procedure is undertaken on a case
  • living in the same household or household-like setting (eg,, shared section of in a hostel) with a case
  • face-to-face contact in any setting within two metres of a case for 15 minutes or more
  • having been in a closed environment (eg, a classroom, hospital waiting room, or conveyance other than aircraft) within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more; or in a higher-risk closed environment for 15 minutes or more as determined by the local Medical Officer of Health*.
  • having been seated on an aircraft within 2 metres of a case (for economy class this would mean 2 seats in any direction including seats across the aisle, other classes would require further assessment)
  • aircraft crew exposed to a case (a risk assessment conducted by the airline is required to identify which crew should be managed as close contacts).

*The local Medical Officer of Health will determine whether an environment is higher-risk. Considerations include the nature of the gathering, the level of contact between individuals and the ability to observe physical distancing/hygiene measures.

Any person who receives an orange Bluetooth notification via the NZ COVID Tracer app is considered a close contact.

Casual contacts

Any person with exposure to the case who does not meet the criteria for a close contact.

Any person who receives a yellow QR notification for a location of interest via the NZ COVID Tracer app.

Actions for contacts

  Description Actions for the contact Actions for secondary* contacts
Casual contact

People who have had exposure to a confirmed case, but who do not meet the criteria of a close contact.

In some specific situations, we will ask casual contacts to take additional steps where there may have been a higher risk of exposure.

  • Self-monitor for COVID symptoms for 14 days.
  • If symptoms develop, get tested and stay at home until negative test result is returned.
  • In specific situations, casual contacts may be asked to get a test around day 5 after exposure and stay at home until they get a negative test result.
  • No action.
Close contact People who have had exposure to a confirmed case that meets the close contact criteria.
  • Isolate/quarantine for 14 days from last exposure at home or in a managed facility.
  • Get a test on day 5 after first exposure, another on day 12 after last exposure, and if symptoms develop.
  • If the close contact develops symptoms, then their household members should stay at home until the close contact returns a negative test result (following symptom onset).
  • If one or more household member(s) of the close contact develop symptoms, they should stay at home and get a test.
  • In some specific situations, secondary contacts may be asked to take additional steps where there may be a higher risk of transmission.

*A secondary contact is a household member of a close contact.

In all situations, if a casual contact or close contact or a household member of a close contact later develops symptoms, they should get tested, even if they have had an earlier test, and they should stay at home while awaiting the test result. 

Factsheets for close contacts

These factsheets are being used by public health units to provide basic information on COVID-19 and precautions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. The fact sheet should be read in conjunction with advice on self-isolation and any specific advice given to you by your doctor, Healthline, public health units or your managed isolation facility.

Close contact with a confirmed case – last updated 17 December 2020

COVID-19 Disease Indicator Summaries

The COVID-19 Disease Indicators provide an end-to-end view of the public health response to COVID-19.

See Ongoing COVID-19 disease indicator summary reports

NZ COVID Tracer app

NZ COVID Tracer is a Ministry of Health app that supports fast and effective contact tracing by creating a digital diary of the places you visit. 

Learn more about the NZ COVID Tracer app.

In this section

  • Places of interest for people who may be 'casual contacts' of COVID-19 cases in the community. While risk from these locations is most often very low, casual contacts are asked to monitor their health and get medical advice from their GP or Healthline if they become unwell. Read more
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