Contact tracing for COVID-19

This page was last updated 27 March 2020.

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.

Close contacts

A ‘Close contact’ is defined as any person with the following exposure to a suspect, 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 (e.g. a classroom, hospital waiting room, or conveyance other than aircraft) within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more
  • 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).

Casual contacts

A casual contact is someone who has had contact with a case but doesn’t meet the criteria for a close contact. This could mean someone travelling on the same aeroplane who was seated away from the case. For example, they were only close to the person with COVID-19 for less than 15 minutes or were at the same place but not near them.

If you think you might be a close or casual contact, it doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. You will be contacted by public health staff or you can call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. They will give you advice on what you need to do.

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.

Close contact with a confirmed case – last updated 18 March 2020

Close contact with a suspected case – last updated 18 March 2020

People who have been on an aircraft with an unwell person – last updated 5 March 2020

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