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

Last updated: 1 October 2020

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 we will revise this resource as required, things do change, so please regularly check the links included here and continue to get your information from the Unite Against COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites.

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. Stay informed about New Zealand’s current alert levels and what this means for you and those you support with more information at COVID-19 alert system.

Health and disability

How to protect yourself and the people you care for

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 seeking 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 may 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 lab 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 at
Keep track of where you’ve been.

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 community.

It is recognised that this approach may present a challenge for the people you might usually care for and for their families, whānau and āiga. People’s individual circumstances will be a strong consideration in terms of 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 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 from Alert Level 2 and above.

From Alert Level 2 and above, face masks or coverings are mandatory on public transport in New Zealand. 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. When near others you do not know who are not wearing a mask, try to keep a physical distance.

In Alert Level 1 it is not mandatory to wear a mask or face covering on public transport, but it is encouraged.

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 and Wear a face covering.

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

More information for disabled people and their family and whānau is available at Information for disabled people and their family and whānau.


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.

Welfare and social sector support

Access to food and other essentials

Accessing financial assistance to get food

You may be able to get help through Work and Income. You don’t need to be an existing Work and Income client to get this help. To learn more, call 0800 559 009 or go to MyMSD.

If you can’t leave your home to get food

Support may be available to get food delivered if you can’t leave your home.

  • You can make online orders and arrangements through local supermarkets; or make arrangements with family and friends to pick up food.
  • If this is not possible, you can also seek assistance through community groups, food banks, or social service or health providers. You can find contact details for these groups on the Family Services Directory website.

If you also need financial assistance, call Work and Income on 0800 559 009.

General Financial Support

You may be eligible for financial help from Work and Income for urgent costs like:

  • food
  • accommodation (rent, board, emergency housing)
  • repairing or replacing appliances
  • emergency dental treatment
  • emergency medical treatment
  • health travel costs

You don’t need to be on a benefit to get help. You can find out more information about financial support (including eligibility) at COVID-19 on the Work and Income website.

You can also call Work and Income on 0800 559 009 and check what else you might be eligible for at Check what you might get on the MSD website.

Work and Income clients

During this time regular payments will continue, and Work and Income will continue to help over the phone and online as much as possible – including having appointments over the phone where possible.

You can use MyMSD to update your personal details, check your payments and apply for help with things like one-off costs for food. If you still need help, you can call Work and Income on 0800 559 009. More information related to COVID-19 support and changes is available at COVID-19 on the Work and Income website.

Help for carers

Information on carer focused support available from Work and Income can be found at Carers on the Work and Income website.

Please check the website regularly for the most up to date information.

Lost your job due to COVID-19?

If you lose your job (including self-employment) from 1 March to 30 October 2020 due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment. More information can be found at COVID-19 Income Relief Payment on the Work and Income website.

Employer wage subsidies

If you have a paid job outside of your caring role, your employer may be eligible for a wage subsidy. There’s more information about the wage subsidies, including the Leave Support Scheme available at COVID-19 - Support for Employers on the Work and Income website.

Talk to your employer to see if they have applied for the scheme and if you are eligible for the payment. You can also check if your employer has applied for a wage subsidy at COVID-19 wage subsidies - Employer Search on the MSD 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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