COVID-19: Essential services in the health and disability system

Information on essential services in the health and disability system.

Last updated: 7 October 2020

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Border exemptions for essential health workers

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. There are a limited number of exceptions for other travellers who should seek approval from Immigration New Zealand before travelling. 

Essential health and disability workers are current or new employees who hold a key position required to deliver critical services within the NZ health and disability system. You can find the full list of essential health and disability workers who can apply for essential health worker exemptions on the Immigration New Zealand website. All applications for exemptions must be sent to Immigration New Zealand.


List of Alert Level 4 essential health and disability services

You can use this information to understand the essential health and disability services available at Alert Level 4. In Alert Level 3, 2 and 1, this information is no longer used.

The Ministry of Health is the lead agency for Health and is an essential Government service.

ACC services are delivered within the health service, and ACC services in the essential health and disability services list continue. 

For information on essential businesses and services not related to health and disability, read more about all essential businesses.

This list was last updated on 6 May 2020.

  • Addiction providers
  • Aged care workers
  • Ambulance services (including air ambulances)
  • Care facilities (eg, rest homes / retirement villages)
  • Cemeteries and crematoria
  • Chiropractic services (emergency and acute care)
  • Community care coordinators and workers
  • Community Radiology
  • Correctional facilities
  • Dentists (emergency and acute care)
  • Disability Support Services
  • District health boards and all DHB provided and funded services and support staff
  • Doctors
  • Funeral homes
  • Health equipment producers, personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Health and Disability Commissioner
  • Health Promotion Agency
  • Health Quality and Safety Commission
  • Home and Community Support Services
  • Hospital Health Services (including private, radiology) – refer to essential hospital health services below
  • Kaiawhina workers
  • Medical laboratories
  • Medical Laboratory Scientists
  • Mental Health and Addiction Services
  • Mental health providers
  • Midwives and maternity providers
  • Mortuary services
  • National Telehealth services, including Helplines, Healthline, the 1737 mental health support number, bowel screening line and others
  • Needle exchange
  • Needs Assessment Service Coordinators (NASCs)
  • NZ Blood Service (including transportation)
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Optometry (emergency and acute care)
  • Osteopaths (emergency and acute care)
  • Paramedics
  • Pharmac
  • Pharmacy services (eg, pharmacies, deliveries, etc.)
  • Primary care clinics
  • Residential care providers

Not being on the list above does not necessarily mean a service is considered non-essential. It may simply not have been considered by the Ministry of Health.


Essential hospital services

Essential clinical services 

Clinical support services

  • Security, cleaning, laundry and waste management
  • Laboratory (including phlebotomy services) 
  • Pharmacy 
  • Mortuary
  • Emergency dental services
  • Colonoscopies – high risk recalls from screening or prior risk rating
  • Radiology services 
  • Blood services
  • Central sterile services department 
  • Discharge lounges (if they can maintain social distancing)

Medical services

  • All medical services
  • Colonoscopy 
  • Palliative care 
  • Renal dialysis
  • Cancer services
  • Angiography/interventional cardiology etc
  • Diabetes services 
  • Respiratory services 
  • ED
  • MAPU/AAU
  • ICU/HDU/CCU

Mental health services

  • Acute mental health services
  • Community mental health services (virtual where possible)
  • Child and youth mental health services (virtual where possible)
  • Psychogeriatric community health services (virtual where possible)
  • AOD services (virtual where possible)

Older person’s services

  • Community nursing services
  • NASC
  • AT&R

Paediatrics/maternity

  • Paediatrics
  • Primary and secondary birthing services
  • NICU/PICU
  • Child Development Services 
  • Fertility clinics (existing in-cycle patients only)

Surgical services

  • Surgical services including SAPU 

Essential non-clinical services

  • Medical records
  • Pepi Pod (safe sleep devices) suppliers
  • ICT – core ‘keeping lights on’ programmes
  • Quality and risk/Infection control
  • Health and safety
  • Engineering and maintenance Services 
  • Urgent construction works where the work averts a significant risk (eg, burst pipe) 
  • Critical infrastructure and supply chain where the project contributes to immediate COVID-19 capacity 
  • Communications 
  • Catering provision for staff and patients
  • NTA
  • HR – payroll etc
  • Finance services – payment, invoicing etc
  • Quality and risk
  • Funder payment services and contract management
  • Building services
  • Māori health/Pacific health – as part of NGO comms and support
  • Meals on wheels
  • Chaplaincy 
  • Occupational health (core services only)
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