How To Protect Yourself & Others Against Coronavirus (COVID-19)

How To Protect Yourself & Others Against Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Stay home if you're unwell - isolate wherever you are. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 about a free COVID-19 test. Keep track of where you've been. Turn on Bluetooth tracing and scan QR codes wherever you go. Wear a face covering on public transport (including flights).

How to protect yourself against COVID-19

Watch this short animation to learn more about how to protect yourself against COVID-19.

World Health Organisation (WHO)


Key points to remember about protecting against COVID-19

  • COVID-19 is spread from person to person mainly through the droplets produced when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes
  • there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19
  • wash and dry hands - when done correctly, it is highly effective at killing most germs and viruses
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissues (put tissues in the bin or a bag immediately)
  • clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • face masks and coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 - make sure to wear them on public transport, including flights

See the NZ Government's 'Unite against COVID-19' website.

Photo of a hand holding a bar of soap - text says 'Wash your hands with this' Photo of an arm highlighting the elbow - text says 'Sneeze here'

Wash your hands


Handwashing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser, when done correctly, are both highly effective at killing most germs and viruses.

Wet hands with running water - cold and warm water both kill germs and viruses as long as you use soap.

Use enough soap to cover wet hands.

Scrub all surfaces of the hands - including backs of hands, between fingers and under nails - for at least 20 seconds.

Rinse thoroughly with running water.

Dry hands with a clean cloth, single-use towel or blow drier - germs spread more easily from wet skin than from dry skin, so drying your hands completely is an important step. Paper towels or clean cloths are the most effective way to remove germs without spreading them to other surfaces.

The same goes for hand sanitiser - use a sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Rub it into your hands for at least 20 seconds to completely cover hands.

Handwashing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser, when done correctly, are both highly effective at killing most germs and viruses. Hand sanitiser is often more convenient when you are outside of the home, but can be expensive or difficult to find in emergency contexts.


Wash your hands regularly, especially at the following times:

  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • after visiting a public space, including public transport, markets and places of worship
  • after touching surfaces outside of the home
  • after touching money
  • before, during and after caring for a sick or vulnerable person
  • before and after eating

Always wash your hands:

  • after using the toilet
  • after handling rubbish
  • after touching animals and pets
  • after changing babies' nappies or helping children use the toilet
  • when you can see your hands are dirty

Helping children wash their hands

You can make handwashing easier for children by setting up a stool so they can reach water and soap by themselves. You can make it fun for them by singing their favourite songs while you help them rub their hands.

Check out this Sesame Street video about handwashing, for younger children.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Cough or sneeze into your elbow - coughing or sneezing into your elbow catches the droplets and stops them getting onto your hands. That means you won't spread the virus to other people and make them sick too.

You can also cough or sneeze into tissues. Put any used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately. Then wash your hands thoroughly. Then dry.

Graphic showing a child sneezing or coughing into their elbow and into a tissue

Avoid touching face

Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are dirty.

Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Hands can then transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Graphic - don't touch eyesGraphic - don't touch noseGraphic - don't touch mouth

Wear a face covering

Face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Check the information about face masks and coverings at the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects

Now's a good time to pay extra attention when cleaning - clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.

COVID-19 can remain on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to about 3 days and less than that for other types of surfaces. This will depend on the surface.

If surfaces look dirty, clean them first. It's best to use a disinfectant that is antiviral - follow instructions. Remember to store cleaners and disinfectants safely.

Check the Spinoff website - How to get rid of COVID-19 from surfaces the right way.

Follow NZ Alert Level rules and call your family doctor if you have symptoms

See the NZ Government's Unite against COVID-19 website for information about New Zealand's Alert Levels.

If you have any symptoms of cold or flu, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453.


Content based on the NZ Government website 'Unite against COVID-19'.

Graphic of a child sneezing into their elbow, and into a tissue is a screenshot taken from a Mayo Clinic video Supporting your child during COVID-19 nasal swab testing.

Graphics warning against touching eyes, nose and mouth are screenshots taken from the World Health Organization video - How to protect yourself against COVID-19.

Images promoting washing hands and sneezing into your elbow are from the Ministry of Health

This page last reviewed 26 January 2021.

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