Common human coronaviruses usually only cause mild to moderate respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold. On rare occasions, new coronaviruses emerge. These may cause outbreaks and serious illness.
- Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses that include viruses known to cause illness in animals. Sometimes these infections can be passed to humans.
- Most people will get infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses in their lifetime. Young children are most likely to get infected.
- Coronavirus usually causes a mild disease, such as the common cold, that does not require specific treatment.
- In rare cases, coronaviruses can cause serious outbreaks. Coronaviruses have been responsible for outbreaks such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the current novel coronavirus pandemic (originally called 2019-nCoV and now officially called COVID-19).
- There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection.
- Good personal hygiene and avoiding people with respiratory illness can reduce your chances of getting coronavirus.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a type of virus that can affect humans and animals. It's named coronavirus because the virus has crown-like spikes on its surface ('corona' meaning crown).
There a variety of different types of coronavirus and most people will get infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses in their lifetime. It usually only causes a mild disease such as the common cold. Young children are most likely to get infected.
Coronavirus infection is much more common in animals than in humans. Sometimes, the coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and infect humans becoming a new human coronavirus.
What are the symptoms of human coronavirus infection?
Most common types of human coronavirus usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory-tract illnesses, like the common cold. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include:
- runny nose
- sore throat
- a general feeling of being unwell.
Other types of coronavirus can cause more severe illness. Infants, older people and people with medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease or weakened immune systems are most at risk of getting more severe problems such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
Coronaviruses have been responsible for outbreaks such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is responsible for the 2019/2020 outbreak, which started in the city of Wuhan in China. The virus has caused a range of symptoms from mild ones similar to a cold to more severe pneumonia-like symptoms. Read more about the Covid-19 outbreak.
- MERS symptoms usually include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which often worsens to pneumonia. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. MERS cases continue to occur, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula. Read more about MERS.
- SARS symptoms often included fever, chills and body aches, which usually progressed to pneumonia. No human cases of SARS have been reported anywhere in the world since 2004. Read more about SARS.
How is human coronavirus infection spread?
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
In New Zealand, people usually get infected with common human coronaviruses in autumn and winter. However, you can get infected at any time of the year.
Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. This is often how outbreaks occur.
How is human coronavirus infection treated?
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.
If you are mildly sick, drink plenty of liquids and stay home and rest.
If you are concerned about your symptoms, call your healthcare provider or ring the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.
The latest advice will also be posted on the New Zealand Government's COVID-19 website.
How can I prevent the spread of human coronavirus?
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by doing the following:
- stay home while you are sick
- avoid close contact with others
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the tissue in the rubbish bin straight away
- wash your hands and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces after you have coughed or sneezed.
Learn more about stopping the spread of COVID-19.
How can I protect myself from human coronavirus?
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- wash your hands regularly with soap and water and dry well
- avoid touching your face with unclean hands
- avoid close contact, including not sharing personal items such as utensils and towels, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Learn more about protecting yourself against COVID-19.
- Coronavirus World Health Organization, Switzerland, 2020
- About human coronaviruses Centres for Disease Control, US, 2019
||Dr Li-Wern Yim is a travel doctor with a background in general practice. She studied medicine at the University of Otago, and has a postgraduate diploma in travel medicine (Otago). She also studied tropical medicine in Uganda and Tanzania, and holds a diploma from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She currently works in clinical travel medicine in Auckland.
Covid19 Covid 19
- The spread of a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) is being closely monitored by the Ministry of Health.
- All New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household. Find out what you need to do.
- The border is now closed to everyone except for returning New Zealand citizens and residents, with only rare exceptions for anyone else to be allowed in.
- If you have been overseas in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of departure or contact. This means you need to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. Read more about self-isolation and if you are self-isolating, register with Healthline online
- After you have finished your 14-day self-isolation, you need to follow the staying at home advice given below for all New Zealanders.
- If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your GP or Healthline's dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453. They will tell you what to do.
- It is very important to stay at home and call before going to a medical centre. If you are infectious you could spread the virus to others.
The situation with the COVID-19 outbreak can change quickly. The Ministry of Health has up to date information on its website, Facebook page and Twitter channel and the NZ Government has created a COVID-19 website for all your COVID-19 questions, including those that are not health-related. You can also follow Unite against COVID-19 on Facebook.
The Government has also launched a WhatsApp channel. Govt.NZ – which is free to use on any mobile device – will carry information and news for the public, businesses, healthcare providers, not for profits and local government. Click here to set up the channel.
You can also subscribe to the New Zealand Government’s Unite Against COVID-19 e-newsletter, which provides a daily update on COVID-19 news, resources and frequently asked questions, here.
For information and resources specifically for Māori see uruta.maori.nz.
Staying at home – what you must do
The following information is from covid19.govt.nz
We are currently at Level 4.
This means New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household.
We know that this is a big ask. Eradicating the disease is vital to protect people’s health and ensure our health system can cope and look after New Zealanders who become sick.
You may go for a walk or exercise and enjoy nature, but keep a 2-metre distance from people at all times. You can take your children outside.
Food will always be available – production will continue, distribution will continue, supermarkets will continue. You will always have access to food.
Medicines will always be available.
Healthcare for those that need it will be available.
Your usual financial support, like benefits, will continue as normal.
Remember, whatever you do must be solitary. We're asking that you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.
We need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.
See the Government's dedicated COVID-19 website for information on:
Where to go for COVID-19 advice
If you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms (fever, coughing, sore throat, difficulty breathing) call your GP clinic or phone the dedicated Healthline COVID-19 number (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). The 0800 number operates 24/7 and interpreters are available.
Based on your symptoms, recent travel or exposure to others with COVID-19 symptoms, your GP or Healthline will advise whether you need to leave the house for safe testing.
- If you need to access other healthcare, call your health service first.
- If you need to get your flu shot, call your GP or local community pharmacist first to arrange to get this done safely.
In all cases, do not go to a medical clinic without phoning first – you may infect other people. If it is an emergency, phone 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you need an interpeter, follow this process:
- Feeling unwell? Call Healthline 0800 358 5453
- Immediately say your language you need, for example ‘Korean’ and WAIT (it could take up to 5-10mins), DO NOT HANG UP!
- The Healthline staff have been briefed not to carry on talking in English to you if you have said the language you need first. You will be connected to an interpreter.
- You can tell the interpreter your health concerns as part of a three-way conversation with the Healthline staff.
See also the Ministry of Health's easy to read resources translated by the Red Cross into other languages.
Other COVID-19 concerns
If you’re confused about things like self-isolation and staying at home, have had travel plans disrupted, have lost your job or are struggling financially, or have been affected in some other way by COVID-19 please try one of the services below:
- For answers to many common questions and details on what support is available, visit the Government's dedicated Unite against COVID-19 website. You can also follow this group on Facebook.
- For the latest updates, follow the Ministry of Health's Facebook page or Twitter channel.
- To find out what help may be available, who to contact for help or for more information, call the 0800 Government Helpline on 0800 779 997 (9am to 5pm, 7 days a week).
- For travel advice, visit the Government’s SafeTravel website at safetravel.govt.nz/contact
- If you are unable to work or have lost your job because of COVID-19, visit workandincome.govt.nz.
- If you are concerned about an event, reach out to the people organising it for information.
Resources for Māori
COVID-19 has the potential to have a serious impact on Māori, so Māori need access to tailored and relevant information, resources and practical guidance and advice on how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā has developed COVID-19 resources for Māori. These will be updated regularly.
Advice about staying at home
All New Zealanders not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of your household. Learn more about staying at home
Advice about self-isolation
- If you have been overseas in the past 14 days, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of departure.
- If you are self-isolating, register with Healthline online
- Key steps for self-isolating and reducing the risk to those around you are at COVID19.govt.nz
- If you develop symptoms of fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms, please seek medical advice by first phoning your GP or calling Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453.
Advice about shopping safely
The Government's COVID-19 site has the following information about how to shop safely:
- shops will be doing their best to limit the number of shoppers – helping you keep 2 metres away from others
- be kind to essential workers, and others you’re sharing the shop with
- come prepared with a list so you can get in and out as quickly as possible
- send one person from your ‘bubble’ to do the whole shop
- keep 2 metres away from others, including staff – they need to keep safe too!
- use a contactless card if you can, not cash
- bag groceries away from others if you can
- only touch what you want to buy
- if you like, take a soapy towel in a small container to wipe down trolley or basket handles etc
- take out produce when you get home, and rinse first in soapy water, then in clean water to remove any soap residue
- wipe down packaged goods with a soapy clean towel, then dry
- wash your hands before and after you shop.
Information for disabled people and their family and whānau
Advice on what you can do stay safe and healthy. You need to do everything you can to prevent yourself from coming into contact with COVID-19. This means being careful, clean and making a plan. Don’t be scared, be prepared. Read more information for disabled people and their family and whānau.
Information for international students
Information for international students can be found at NauMai NZ
Where can I get financial support?
The Government is acting to support New Zealanders through these changes with an updated package that has been expanded now we have escalated our response. This includes:
- a wage subsidy scheme
- leave and self-isolation support
- business cash flow and tax measures.
Your usual financial support, such as benefits, will continue. Find out more about COVID-19 financial support on the Work and Income website
- The dedicated Healthline COVID-19 support number is 0800 358 5453 (most importantly for people who have arrived from overseas and have developed symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath).
- Please don't call Healthline with non-health-related questions about COVID-19. They are under huge pressure and need to keep the phone lines free for health-related concerns.
- You can call the 0800 Government Helpline on 0800 779 997 (9am to 5pm, 7 days a week) for non-health-related concerns, such as to find out what help may be available, who to contact for help, or for more information.
- Please don't call the main Healthline number 080 611 116 about COVID-19. We need to keep this line available for people who have other health concerns.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a type of coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The novel coronavirus now known as COVID-19 was first encountered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread to many other countries around the globe and is now recognised as a pandemic.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other respiratory illnesses that are much more common, such as the flu. Symptoms include:
- a cough
- a high temperature (at least 38°C)
- shortness of breath.
These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild to moderate illness. However, it can make some people very ill. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes) are at highest risk of severe disease.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19, like the flu, is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance. These droplets are too large to stay in the air for long, so they quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.
You may get infected by the virus if you touch those surfaces or objects and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.
What can I do to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19?
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against COVID-19.
As with other respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection:
- regularly wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds with water and soap) and dry thoroughly
- cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues
- put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- avoid hugging, kissing, shaking hands and greeting someone with a hongi
- don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
- clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs
- if you need to leave your home for exercise or to access essential supplies or services, stay 2 metres away from other people.
Read more about how to slow the spread of COVID-19.
What is the criteria for getting tested for COVID-19?
The Government has set up a number of Community-Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) to provide safe places to get tested (swabbed) for COVID-19.
If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, please call your GP, or Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). They will advise you whether to go to your doctor or to a CBAC for a swab test.
The criteria for testing has been updated to include anyone with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19. This is regardless of whether you have been overseas or not. This means more people will get tested.
The criteria is a guide for health professionals, who will continue to use their clinical judgement to decide when people need to get tested
Test results can be expected within 24–48 hours.
Unite against COVID-19 NZ Government, 2020
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) Ministry of Health, NZ
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak World Health Organization
Easy to read information about COVID-19 Ministry of Health, NZ
Translated information about COVID-19 NZ Government, 2020
Covid19 Covid 19