COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) - What You Need To Know

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) - What You Need To Know

COVID-19 is a new virus that can affect your lungs and airways. There are simple steps you can take to protect you and your whānau. 

WHO: Coronavirus - questions and answers (Q&A)

What is a coronavirus? Where do they come from? How can I protect myself? Watch this Q&A from the World Health Organization for the answers.

World Health Organization video


Key points to remember about coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • COVID-19 (a type of coronavirus) is a new virus that can affect your lungs and airways
  • there are simple steps you can take to protect you and your whānau
  • staying at home if you or your child are sick is still the best thing you can do to stop any future spread of COVID-19

What is novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 (a type of coronavirus) is a new virus that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a type of coronavirus.

For the latest, see the NZ Government's 'Unite against COVID-19' website and Facebook page.

How easy is it to catch and spread coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Like the flu, COVID-19 can spread from person to person. Scientific evidence suggests it spreads mainly by droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

These droplets containing the virus settle on surrounding surfaces. You can get infected if you touch surfaces or objects with droplets and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

People can also get infected if droplets remain in the air for a few minutes, or longer. While it is unlikely people will get infected this way, the risk becomes higher:

  • in enclosed spaces that do not have good airflow
  • in crowded places
  • during loud conversations

COVID-19 is mostly spread because of close contact with people with the virus who have symptoms. Spread is most likely to happen once symptoms appear. It is less common for the virus to spread before symptoms appear, but this can still happen. Good hand hygiene, and physical distancing from those you don't know minimises risk.

See the NZ Ministry of Health's website, Facebook page @minhealthnz and Twitter channel.

How can I reduce the risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You can take some simple steps to help stop the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

Find out how to protect yourself and others against COVID-19

What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses that are much more common, such as colds and flu. Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that your child or you have COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38 degrees Celsius)
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell

Difficulty breathing can be a sign of pneumonia.

Some children and adults may also have less common symptoms such as only:

  • fever
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • confusion and irritability

Check out an animated chart showing how to recognise possible symptoms of the UK variant of COVID-19 (B.1.1.7).

See COVID-19 symptoms charts in 7 languages

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. The virus can be passed onto others before they know they have it - from up to 2 days before symptoms develop.

How serious is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

  • most people with this virus are not severely ill
  • people of all ages are being infected, but older people and those with medical conditions seem most likely to get seriously ill

Who can I call for COVID-19 health advice and information?

For COVID-19 health advice in New Zealand, call 0800 358 5453. Make sure to only call for health-related information on COVID-19.

For COVID-19 health advice, call 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

It is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

People calling the free line will be able to talk with a member of the National Telehealth Service and interpreters will be available.

Healthline's main number (0800 611 116) is still the one to call for non-COVID-19 health concerns.

Who can I call about non-health-related COVID-19 questions?

You can call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 (8am to 10pm, 7 days a week).

You can call for non-health-related things like:

  • finding out what help may be available
  • finding out who to contact for help

What should I do if my child is sick right now?

If your child or you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing please first call your family doctor or Healthline in New Zealand (for free) on 0800 358 5453.

Find out about the signs that indicate your child is struggling to breathe

Check the Ministry of Health's website - Caring for yourself and others who have, or may have, COVID-19 at home.

What about self-isolation and staying at home?

See the NZ Government's 'Unite against COVID-19' website for information about:

Is there a vaccine to protect against coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Yes, see the latest information about COVID-19 vaccines at the COVID-19 website.   

Is there any treatment for novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.


Graphics are screenshots taken from the World Health Organization video - How to protect yourself against COVID-19.

This page last reviewed 01 March 2021.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it