Self-isolation involves following simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people. Doing so will help protect you, your family and all of New Zealand against Covid-19 and other common infectious diseases.
Why do I need to self-isolate?
If you have been in mainland China since 2 February 2020 or in Hubei Province in the last 14 days, you may have been exposed to novel coronavirus (formerly known as 2019-nCoV and now officially called Covid-19). In some people, it may take up to 2 weeks before symptoms present if they have been infected.
So, to keep you and others safe, you should isolate yourself from other people for 14 days from the time you left or transited through mainland China, or were exposed to novel coronavirus.
Who should self-isolate?
You should isolate yourself from other people for 14 days:
- When you arrive back in New Zealand if you have travelled to or transited through mainland China, even if you don’t have symptoms of the virus.
- If you have been in close contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case.
Only people who have travelled to or transited through mainland China need to self-isolate, not any other people they may be living with (who haven't travelled.)
If you are unsure whether you should be self-isolating, or if you do not know where you are allowed to go, please contact Healthline for free on their dedicated novel coronavirus phone number 0800 358 5453 or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453.
Do I need to let anyone know I am self-isolating?
If you are self-isolating, please register with Healthline 0800 358 5453 or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453
Registering will ensure Healthline can regularly check on your welfare and wellbeing as well as helping support New Zealand’s overall response to novel coronavirus.
The dedicated Healthline number for health advice and information around novel coronavirus, including registering self-isolation, is 0800 358 5453 or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453 – it's free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can ask for a translator. They will provide advice on what to do.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation means avoiding situations where you could infect other people.
This means avoiding all situations where you may come in contact with others, such as social gatherings, work, school, childcare/preschool centres, university, faith-based gatherings, aged care and healthcare facilities, prisons, sports gatherings, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls
and all public gatherings.
If you are a visitor to New Zealand, this means you should avoid sitting in a restaurant, participating in any type of tour group or using public transport, including flights, buses and trains between cities in New Zealand.
What does self-isolation involve?
The following simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible (as you would with the seasonal flu virus) will help protect you, your family and all of New Zealand against Covid-19 and other common infectious diseases.
1. Separate yourself from other people in your area where possible
As much as possible, you should limit your contact with people other than the family members/companions that you travelled with. You should avoid having visitors to your home, but it is okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.
If you are in a home where the other members have not travelled (ie, your home or flat, a homestay, student accommodation), minimise close contact with the other members by avoiding situations where you may have face-to-face contact closer than 1 metre for more than 15 minutes.
2. Cover your coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or you can cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw used tissues in a lined rubbish bin and immediately perform hand hygiene: either wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you dry them thoroughly, or use a hand sanitiser.
3. Wash your hands
Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use a hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available and if your hands are not visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
4. Avoid sharing household items
You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, pillows or other items with other people in your home. After using these items, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water, place them in the dishwasher for cleaning or wash them in your washing machine.
You should minimise your use of public transport, taxis or ride-sharing apps like Uber until 14 days after your return from mainland China.
If you need to use public transport, where possible sit in a window seat in a row by yourself. Avoid crowded public transport, especially during rush hour. During your travel make sure you use hand sanitiser regularly and if you need to cough or sneeze then cover your mouth or nose.
If you are unwell you should seek advice from Healthline for free on phone 0800 611 116 before you travel.
6. Getting food and medicine
Where possible, contact a friend, family member or delivery services to carry out errands like supermarket shopping for you.
7. Taking care of your wellbeing
Your emotional and mental health is important. It's normal to feel stressed or lonely if you are self-isolating, but there are some things you can do to feel better.
Reach out to your usual supports, like family and friends, and talk about how you feel. We also recommend sticking to a routine such as having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercising.
If you feel you are not coping, there are health professionals you can talk to. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 for free at any time (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) to talk with a trained counsellor.
8. If you become unwell contact Healthline
Contact Healthline for free on their dedicated novel coronavirus number 0800 358 5453 or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453, or call your GP, if you begin to feel unwell. The symptoms of coronavirus are cough, fever and shortness of breath. If you need to call an ambulance tell them you have recently returned from mainland China.
The Ministry of Health now has a Facebook page with up to date information as well as their Twitter channel to keep people up to date on the novel coronavirus and self-isolation.
See also Novel coronavirus – advice for travellers Simplified Chinese version Ministry of Health, NZ, Feb 2020
Self-isolation guidance for people returning to New Zealand from mainland China Ministry of Health, NZ, Feb 2020
|Dr Veronica Playle is a clinical microbiologist and infectious diseases physician. She is currently completing her PhD at the University of Auckland and works part-time for Auckland District Health Board.|