COVID-19: Information for family, whānau, and āiga carers

Last updated: 4 March 2021

Carers are important and working hard during COVID-19

Carers are important and make a significant contribution to the quality of the lives of the friends, family, whānau and āiga members they care for and support. Caring is at the heart of a compassionate community and underpins who we are and what we value. Carers’ work is of huge social and economic value to New Zealand.

The role of a carer becomes even more challenging during New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are performing a key frontline role in keeping things together in your families, whānau and āiga and we acknowledge and value you.

There’s lots of helpful information for carers

We know that you may be doing more than usual, so we are thinking of you in how we provide information, funding and how you access services. Some of the answers are evolving and we will work with Carers NZ, members of the Carers Alliance, service providers and other partners to keep you informed.

This information has been brought together to make it easy for you to find the support and advice carers need at this time. While this information is up-to-date at the time of writing, things can change quite quickly, so please regularly check the links included here and continue to get your information from the Unite Against COVID-19 and Ministry of Health: COVID-19 websites.

If you do not have internet access to check on the latest news, please use the radio, TV and toll-free phone numbers such as for Carers NZ, Healthline COVID-19 enquiries, Work and Income and others on the last page.

New Zealand COVID-19 Alert Levels

COVID-19 is likely to be with the world for some time. We must be aware and manage the risks for ourselves and the people we care for. In New Zealand, our Alert Level system is used to describe the level of risk and the restrictions that must be followed at each level. This includes personal movement, exercise, education, work, business, personal and business travel and gatherings. Stay informed about New Zealand’s current alert levels and what this means for you and those you support with more information on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Health and disability

Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines will play a critical role in protecting New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing. At first, the priority group for vaccine are the border frontline health workforce. More details on non-border frontline health workforce, including carers, will be provided as soon as possible. The general public vaccinations are expected to begin from July 2021. There is more information on how and when vaccines will be available, vaccine types (including safety and approval), the vaccine rollout planning, and vaccine updates and resources. This information is available at Vaccines.

How to protect yourself and the people you care for from COVID

Some people are more vulnerable to illnesses. This can include both the people you care for and some of you who are carers. There are simple steps that can be taken to protect you and your family, whānau and āiga.

Good hygiene is very important – regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and cough and sneeze into your elbow. It’s also important to regularly clean high-touch objects, items and surfaces; and stay home and seek medical advice if unwell and get a test where necessary. Physical distance from other people who we don’t know or see regularly is also important. Use face masks or coverings on public transport and when you can’t physically distance from others you don’t know.

The ‘bubble of protection’ around vulnerable people, and those they have contact with, is vital in preventing and managing the risk both of COVID-19 infection and its complications and other infectious diseases. We need to carefully manage our bubbles so that those who are more vulnerable can continue to be protected. More information about how to protect yourself and others is available at Protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.

Assessment and testing for COVID-19

People with any COVID-19 symptoms should get assessed and may need to be tested. A COVID-19 test is free of charge, whether you have COVID-19 symptoms or not.

The nurse will wear personal protective equipment (such as a mask, gown, face shield and gloves) and will ask you questions about your symptoms, general health, where you live and who you live with.

Testing is done by swabbing the back of your nose or throat. A swab is like a small cotton-bud with a longer stick. The sample goes to a laboratory to be analysed. You will be told when and how you will get your results and what to do while you are waiting for the results.

More information on who should get assessed for a test for COVID-19, how testing works, and where to get tested can be found at Assessment and testing for COVID-19.

Contact tracing and remembering where you’ve been

If someone has COVID-19, the local public health unit will find out if anyone else may have been in contact with them, to see if they have also been infected. This is called contact tracing.

If you are called by our contact tracers, please take or return the call. The public health unit, Ministry or Healthline will provide you with advice on self-isolation and check on your health and wellbeing.

Contact tracing allows for testing, isolation and treatment if required. It is a key part of our COVID-19 elimination strategy. More information on how contact tracing works can be found at Contact tracing for COVID-19.

An important part of contact tracing is remembering where you’ve been and who you’ve seen. You can use the NZ COVID Tracer ‘app’ that creates a digital diary, or the NZ COVID Tracer diary booklet to help. More information on keeping track of where you have been can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

What to do if you or the person you care for tests positive for COVID-19

If you test positive, you will have a ‘case interview’ and be asked to move into a quarantine facility as quickly as possible, unless other suitable arrangements are approved by the Medical Officer of Health. Moving to a quarantine facility is to ensure your health and welfare needs are met and to stop risk of infection to your family, whānau, āiga and wider community.

It is recognised that this approach may be challenging for the people you might care for and for their families, whānau and āiga. People’s individual circumstances will be carefully considered in any decision made by the Medical Officer of Health. More information on testing positive and moving to a quarantine facility can be found at Receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.

Face masks and coverings

Wearing a face mask or face covering helps reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 when there are cases in the community. This is one of a range of important actions along with hand hygiene; physical distancing; coughing and sneezing into your elbow; regular cleaning of high touch objects, items and surfaces; and staying home and seeking medical advice if unwell and getting a test where necessary.

All households should have a supply of masks for each household member. Face coverings such as a bandana or a scarf can also be used if you do not have a mask.

Face masks or coverings are mandatory on public transport in all Alert Levels.

The Government has advised that children under 12 years and people with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes it difficult to wear a face mask or covering will be exempt.

It is also important to trust that others are doing the right thing. If someone is not wearing a mask, they may have a legitimate reason and an exemption. When near others you do not know who are not wearing a mask, try to keep a physical distance.

More information on face masks and coverings, and how to wear them correctly and safely, can be found at Use of masks and face coverings in the community andon the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

People at higher risk

Information for people considered at higher risk of the effects of COVID-19 and for their family, whānau and āiga is available at Advice for higher risk people.

Caring for older people

You can find information specifically for older people and their families, whānau and āiga during the COVID-19 response at Advice for older people and their family and whānau.

Supporting a person with dementia

You may be experiencing extra stress and pressure if you are supporting someone who has dementia during the COVID-19 response. More information for family, whānau, āiga carers and supporters of people with dementia who are living at home on how to stay well under different Alert Levels is available at COVID-19: Supporting a person with dementia at home.

Caring for disabled people

Information for disabled people and their families, whānau, āiga and carers during the COVID-19 response, as well as links to accessible information in alternate formats, is available at Information for disabled people and their family and whānau.

Access to respite care – if people allocated Carer Support and Individualised Funding for disability support services cannot access their usual respite care at Alert Levels 3 and 4, they can pay a resident family member to provide breaks. Claims can be made retrospectively using the usual claim form and process. This is an exception to the usual arrangements.

If your support worker is waiting for the result of a COVID-19 test because they have been at one of the places of interest, or they have COVID-19 symptoms, their employer may be able to apply for the Government’s Short-Term Absence Payment to help keep paying them. This payment is available at any alert level. More information can be found on the Work and Income website.

If your support worker is required to self-isolate because they meet certain health criteria (for example they have COVID-19, or are a close contact who has been told to self-isolate for 14 days), their employer may be able to apply for the Government’s Leave Support Scheme to help keep paying them. This payment is available at any alert level. More information can be found on the Work and Income website.

Getting disability support during COVID-19

Information and guidelines for disabled people, and their families, whānau, āiga and carers about health and disability support services at different Alert Levels is available at Health and disability services at different Alert Levels.

Hospice patients and end-of-life care

Guidance and information for people who receive hospice care in home and community settings to reduce the impact and spread of COVID-19 is available at Information for people who receive hospice care in the home.

Parents

A wide range of information and links to help you care for your tamariki, rangatahi and whānau (including explaining COVID-19, Well Child Tamariki Ora, parents with babies, whānau Māori, advice, support and resources) is available at Information for parents.

Wellbeing

It’s important to remember that, when you are caring for someone else, you also need to take care of yourself. A free national mental health and addiction support service is available 24/7 – call or text 1737. Information on other places where you can find mental health and wellbeing support is available at Mental health and wellbeing resources.

Other supports for carers are available

A wide range of financial and other supports for carers is available across the government – see the Ministry of Social Development website.

Keeping up to date

Please keep checking the key government sites for more information on the COVID response:

What other information do you need?

If you have questions or other information you would like to see as a carer please use the links and numbers throughout this resource or get in touch with:

For guidance on any health issues, call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 or contact your local general practice.


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