What should I do in a community outbreak?

Despite the best efforts of our border workers, from time to time COVID-19 breaches our borders and gets into our community. Find out what you need to do when this happens.

Key points about what to do during COVID-19 community outbreaks

  1. If you were at a location of interest at the stated time, follow the Ministry of Health’s advice for what to do (see below).
  2. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to see if you should get a test.
  3. Don’t seek a test if you have not been at a location of interest at the stated time and don't have any COVID-19 symptoms. 
  4. Only get and share information from reliable sources.
  5. Whether there is an outbreak or not, always use the NZ COVID Tracer app, have Bluetooth turned on, use a face mask on public transport and follow good hygiene (hand washing, sneezing and coughing into your elbow).

How do I find the current locations of interest?

Locations of interest can change quickly as more information becomes known about where COVID-19 cases have been. Read about the current locations of interest on the Ministry of Health website. 

For contact tracing purposes, anyone who attended one of the locations of interest during the relevant timeframes is considered to be either a ‘casual plus contact’ or a ‘casual contact’. The current locations of interest page on the Ministry of Health’s website explains whether you are considered to be in one of these categories. 

What are the different types of contacts?

Close contacts

‘Close contacts’ are defined as any person with the following exposure to a confirmed or probable case during the case’s infectious period, without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • direct contact with the body fluids or the laboratory specimens of a case
  • presence in the same room in a healthcare setting when an aerosol-generating procedure is undertaken on a case
  • living in the same household or household-like setting (eg, shared section of in a hostel) with a case
  • face-to-face contact in any setting within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more
  • having been in a closed environment (eg, a classroom, hospital waiting room, or type of transport other than aircraft) within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more; or in a higher-risk closed environment for 15 minutes or more as determined by the local Medical Officer of Health
  • having been seated on an aircraft within 2 metres of a case (for economy class this would mean 2 seats in any direction including seats across the aisle, other classes would require further assessment)
  • aircraft crew exposed to a case (a risk assessment conducted by the airline is required to identify which crew should be managed as close contacts).

Any person who receives an orange Bluetooth notification via the NZ COVID Tracer app is considered a close contact.

Close plus contacts

‘Close plus contacts’ meet the same criteria for close contacts as above. However, your contact was where there is higher risk for transmission. 

Casual plus contacts

These are people who have had exposure to a case, but who don't meet the criteria of a close contact. For casual plus contacts, your contact was where there is higher risk for transmission.

Casual contacts

These are people who have had exposure to a case, but who don't meet the criteria of a close contact or casual plus contact.

Any person who receives a yellow QR notification for a location of interest via the NZ COVID Tracer app where the notification says casual contact. The notification will provide brief advice and a link for more information.  

Find out more about contact tracing for COVID-19. 

What should I do if I was at a location of interest at the stated time?

Close contacts

  • Isolate/quarantine, either at home or in a managed facility, for 14 days from last exposure.
  • Test immediately (unless it's within 1 day of your next scheduled test), and on day 5 after first exposure and day 12 after last exposure.
  • If symptoms develop, get an additional test immediately.

Close plus contact

  • Isolate/quarantine, either at home or in a managed facility, for 14 days from last exposure.
  • Test immediately (unless it's within 1 day of your next scheduled test), and on day 5 after first exposure and day 12 after last exposure.
  • If symptoms develop, get an additional test immediately​

Casual contacts

If you were at a location categorised as ‘casual contact’ during the relevant timeframe, please take the following steps: 

  • Monitor your health for the next 14 days.
  • If you begin to feel unwell or develop any COVID-19 symptoms, contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to understand if and when you need to get tested.
  • Practice good hygiene and use the NZ COVID Tracer App.

Casual plus contacts

If you were at a location categorised as ‘casual plus contact’ during the relevant timeframe, please take the following steps:

  • Stay at home.
  • Contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to understand when you need to get tested.
  • You will need to continue to stay at home until you receive a negative test result back. 
  • If you begin to feel unwell or start to develop COVID-19 symptoms get a test immediately.
  • If you receive a negative test, you need to continue monitoring your symptoms for the next 14 days.
  • If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms you will need to organise another test. 
  • Ensure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or with hand sanitiser.
  • Practice good hygiene and use the NZ COVID Tracer App.

The best time for casual plus contacts to get a test is 5 days after possible exposure. The advice on the current locations of interest page on the Ministry of Health website explains what you need to do, including when you need to get a test. Where the best time for a test is in the future, they tell you the date. Where the best time for a test has passed, they ask that you get a test as soon as possible.  

Locations of interest for Auckland February cases

Out of an abundance of caution the Ministry is asking casual plus contacts to take extra steps: 

  • Isolate at home for 14 days from your exposure.
  • Have tests at day 5 and day 12 after exposure.
  • Call Healthline 0800 358 5453.

Find out more about contact tracing for COVID-19.

Will I get an alert if I was at a location of interest?

If you used the NZ COVID Tracer app to check into a location at around the same time as a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, and contact tracers consider you have been at risk of exposure, you will get an alert. 

This is a reminder of the importance of using the app. Find out more about the NZ COVID-19 Tracer app.

What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms and wasn't at a location of interest?

Wherever you are in the country, if you have cold or flu symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline on  0800 358 5453 about getting a test. If you need to get tested, find your local testing facility on the Healthpoint websiteYou can also find further information about testing stations in Auckland on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website.

If you’re waiting for COVID-19 test results, and have been told you need to self-isolate, you must do so immediately.

What if I have no symptoms and was not at a location of interest?

When community cases emerge, the demand for tests increases, which can make it difficult for the people who need tests to get them. If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms, you do not need to be tested.

Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

If you visited locations of interest during the relevant times, or if you begin to feel sick and start to develop COVID-19 symptoms, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your healthcare provider to ask about getting a test.

You can find your local testing facility on the 
Healthpoint websiteYou can also find further information about testing stations in Auckland and their opening hours on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website

Where can I get reliable information about COVID-19?

There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 being shared in Aotearoa New Zealand. Find reliable, accurate and up-to-information form  Unite Against COVID-19 and the Ministry of Health

What can I do to help stop COVID-19 from spreading?

Follow these top 5 tips to stop the spread:

Scan, scan and scan again

If you haven’t already, download the NZ COVID Tracer app and make sure you scan the QR code every time you go into a shop, café or any other business. It tracks where you've been and helps contact tracers get in touch quickly when a community case pops up.

Turn on Bluetooth tracing

Having Bluetooth tracing turned on means the NZ COVID Tracer app can track the people you’ve been near. You’ll get an alert if you’ve been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19. Bluetooth tracing doesn’t replace the need to scan NZ COVID Tracer QR codes.

Stay home if you're sick

If you’re feeling unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, you must stay at home so you don’t spread it. Call Healthline free on 0800 358 5453 or your healthcare provide to ask about getting a test.

Wear a mask/face covering

If it’s hard to socially distance, wear a mask to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. And remember, it’s compulsory to wear a mask/face covering on public transport as well as all flights nationwide.

Wash your hands regularly

As always, wash your hands regularly to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. Wash often. Use soap. 20 seconds. Then dry. This kills the virus by bursting its protective bubble.

Carry hand sanitiser with you so you can sanitise them when you’re out and about. Wash your hands every time you come home. Also, remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow and try not to touch your face.

Learn more

COVID-19: Contact tracing locations of interest Ministry of Health, NZ
Contact tracing for COVID-19 Ministry of Health, NZ
Covid-19 Education Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Unite Against COVID-19 NZ Government

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.