Contact tracing for COVID-19

Information on how contact tracing works including close contacts and casual contacts and when to self isolate.

Last updated: 7 October 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 Close Contact Service. They will also verify your name and contact details. These calls from Ministry 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 09 306 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.


Casual contacts

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


Self-isolation

We are tracing all close contacts of cases, and getting them tested for COVID-19. All close contacts will remain in self-isolation for 14 days.

Most casual contacts do not need to self-isolate and only need to be tested if they develop symptoms.

In some specific situations, usually early on in an investigation, some casual contacts may be asked by health officials to get tested and self-isolate until they have returned a negative test.

In all situations, if a casual or close contact later develops symptoms, they should get tested, even if they had an earlier test, and self-isolate while awaiting the test result. 


Factsheets for 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 23 July 2020


National Close Contact Tracing Metrics


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.

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