Winter is usually a busy time for the health and disability sector, but this season may be especially challenging.
It’s also possible we’ll see other COVID-19 variants emerge.
The Ministry, DHBs, and health and disability service providers are focused on ensuring health care will continue to be available to those who need it. In the meantime, there are practical things we can all do to keep ourselves and our whānau healthy this winter, and to help lighten the load on the health system.
Keep up those healthy habits
Our experience with COVID-19 has taught us a lot about how effective public health measures are at protecting us from all airborne viruses, such as the flu. Let’s keep practising these throughout winter to keep ourselves and our communities safe:
- Wear a face mask when on public transport, in indoor settings like retail stores and supermarkets, when in poorly ventilated spaces or when it is hard to physically distance from other people.
- Maintain good hand hygiene by washing and drying your hands thoroughly or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your face, dispose of tissues in a waste bin immediately and wash or sanitise your hands. This will prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other viruses such as colds or flu.
- Develop a winter plan for your whānau so family members know what to do if people become unwell. Familiarise yourself with what is expected of you by your employer if you become sick yourself.
- Get your Winter Wellness Kit together: this might include painkillers, a thermometer, tissues, cold and flu medications, enough food and household items for a few days, and a good stock of the regular medicines you or your whanau will need.
Stay home if you’re unwell and get a COVID-19 test
The symptoms of flu can be the same as, or similar to, the symptoms of COVID-19. Both are highly contagious so if you feel sick, stay home and take a COVID-19 test. Read about COVID-19 testing.
Make sure you report both positive and negative results for rapid antigen tests (RATs) in My COVID Record, This is so we can understand the size of the COVID-19 outbreak.
People with COVID-19 and Household Contacts must isolate for 7 days, with tests on days 3 and 7 for Household Contacts.
If someone in your whānau gets sick, it’s a good idea for them to stay in one room or area until they are well. Wear a mask to care for them, and if possible, get them to wear a mask as well. Regularly ventilate or air your home by opening windows and doors. Be sure to wipe clean any surfaces around the house that are frequently touched such as door handles, benchtops, and tables
If it is your child who becomes unwell, follow this winter wellness guidance for children to help with decisions about how to manage your child’s illness, and their attendance at early learning services and schools.
Medicines are available to help treat COVID-19 for our most vulnerable people and make a difference to their care and recovery. Paxlovid and molnupiravir (Lagevrio®) are prescribed for people with COVID-19 who are at an increased risk of serious illness, including: Māori and Pacific peoples, older people, people who with weakened immunity, have high or complex health needs or long term conditions.
If you are at an increased risk of serious illness and have tested positive for COVID-19, talk to your GP, community pharmacy, or local health care provider as soon as possible for an assessment.
If your flu or COVID-19 symptoms get worse or you are concerned about someone you care for, seek help. Call Healthline on 0800 611 116. It’s free and you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Vaccination saves lives
Vaccination is one of the most important ways we can protect ourselves, our whānau and our communities from many infectious diseases.
- Getting a flu vaccine is the best defence from the flu this winter. Its available now and are free for those most likely to get very sick.
- Make sure you have all three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – it will protect you from the worst effects of COVID-19.
- Check that your family are up to date with their routine vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Some people missed their routine MMR immunisations due to COVID-19 and will not be protected from this highly contagious illness.
Eat well, stay active
Nutrition and physical activity play an important part in our overall health and wellbeing, including our bodies’ ability to fight off illness. Getting a good night’s sleep also helps.
Check out our eating and activity guidelines.
Look after your mental wellbeing
Living through a pandemic is challenging enough, but the change of seasons can also be hard on our mental health. As we head into winter, it is important to look after our wairua (spirit), hinengaro (mind), relationships and overall wellbeing.
There are a number of simple things you can do every day to support your mental wellbeing:
- Stay connected with friends and whānau.
- Stick to a schedule or routine as best you can.
- Move your body daily.
- Get outside and spend time in nature.
- Limit your time online and the amount of news you follow.
- Notice and appreciate small moments of joy.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs as these can make things worse.
Find more information and advice on our mental health services webpage.
Keep your home warm and dry
Having a warm, dry home helps keep your family healthy, with fewer germs and less risk of respiratory illnesses. These videos have some useful tips for keeping your home warm and dry, and are available in Māori and English, Samoan and English, and Tongan and English.