Caring for people with COVID-19 in the community

As Aotearoa New Zealand’s vaccination rate increases, we are moving into a new phase where we will be supporting people with COVID-19 and their households in the community.

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Public health operating guidelines

In this new phase, when a person is confirmed positive for COVID-19, the requirement for them to isolate remains and is necessary to contain the spread of the virus, keeping our wider community safe. Depending on the level of illness, isolation in the community may be a good option for an individual.

As Aotearoa New Zealand has a highly vaccinated population, many people with COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms and will be able to safety isolate in the community. 

The Ministry of Health has worked with the health sector to develop an initial set of operating guidelines to managing COVID-19 positive people and whānau. They look to provide central guidance for those providing regionally co-ordinated, locally led health, welfare and wellbeing services in our communities.

These guidelines are for DHBs, PHOs and providers. They have been directly informed by engagement with clinicians in the sector and recent experience with the interim community-based case model in Auckland.

The guidelines are currently being updated.

What the operating guidelines are for

The initial set of guidelines for managing COVID-19 positive people and whānau in the community was released by the Ministry of Health on 3 November 2021.

They provide central guidance for those providing regionally co-ordinated, locally-led services such as:

  • general practitioners
  • iwi and Pacific providers
  • district health boards and public health units
  • other providers of health, welfare and wellbeing support to people in the community.

The aim is to ensure that COVID-19 positive people and whānau receive the support they need to minimise the impact of COVID-19 infection.

These guidelines have been directly informed by engagement with clinicians in the sector, recent experience with the interim community-based case model in Auckland, and with planning support. The Ministry of Health will continue to develop these guidelines with the sector.

Why are we moving to isolation in the community

As Aotearoa New Zealand has a highly vaccinated population, most people with COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms and will be able to safety isolate in the community.  This will ensure our hospitals will be available for those who really need it – whether because of COVID-19 or those requiring acute or planned care.  

When home isolation is not possible

Once someone is confirmed as testing positive for COVID-19, someone will be in contact with the patient to discuss their clinical, welfare and well-being options.  This will involve an assessment of whether home isolation will work for them, or whether alternative accommodation, or hospital is more appropriate for them.  This will depend on how severe the COVID-19 symptoms are, or how at risk the person might be for complications, and the suitability of their home for isolation. 

If others in the same house have to isolate

The whole household will also need to isolate due to the Delta variant being so infectious. Others in your household will need to be tested.

Health, welfare and wellbeing support 

The level of healthcare required will vary, depending on how severe the person’s COVID-19 symptoms might be, the degree that the person might be at risk of complications, or what other healthcare needs that person might have. 

The welfare and wellbeing support will also be tailored to each individual and the needs of the household. It may include the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Kāinga Ora, iwi and Pacific providers and others. People will be linked to provider of their choice who can provide the service they need.

The guidelines support a regionally coordinated, locally-led approach to managing COVID-19 patients and their whanau, understanding that local health, welfare and wellbeing providers know their communities best.

Shared parenting or extended whānau arrangements

When a person is notified of a positive COVID-19 test result, someone will be in contact with the patient to establish a way forward where there are shared parenting or extended whānau arrangements in place.

More information

More information about what to expect if you or someone in your household is diagnosed with COVID-19 can be found on the Health Navigator website.

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