Go well this winter.
Winter is an important time to look after our health. This season we can help prevent the spread of winter illnesses like cold and flu, as well as COVID-19 in the Southern region.
Flu, COVID-19, whooping cough (pertussis), measles and other diseases can be very serious for people who have other health conditions, for young babies and for people who are unvaccinated. (see sections on flu, pertussis)
Let's keep ourselves and our community safe and well this winter. Especially our loved ones who are at higher risk of getting sick during the season.
Safeguard yourself, your family and your community’s wellbeing and health this winter.
How to stay well this winter
a runny nose
loss of smell or taste
shortness of breath
Cover coughs and sneezes – Sneeze and cough into your elbow or a tissue
Throw away tissues in a bin and then wash and dry or sanitise your hands.
Regularly wash your hands with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Look after you and your family’s mental wellbeing
Taking practical steps, like being vaccinated to make sure you don’t get seriously unwell, is the first line of defense this winter.
Make sure your tamariki, whānau and household are up to date with their immunisations to protect themselves and others. We are concerned about the risks of outbreaks of measles and whooping cough this winter – there are free vaccinations available for these illnesses, speak to your healthcare provider.
Vaccination against flu is our first line of defence against severe illness this winter. It is free and available now for those most likely to get very sick.
Get your flu vaccine, COVID-19 booster and make sure your tamariki have all the vaccines they need to protect them this winter. It’s ok and easy to catch up, check immunise.health.nz or speak to your healthcare provider for help on what to do.
You can book for yourself, a family member or a group on bookmyvaccine.health.nz.
You can also call the Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26, or contact your GP, pharmacy or healthcare provider.
Being up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations remains one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from serious illness, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19.
They are free and available to book for yourself, a family member, or a group on bookmyvaccine.health.nz. For advice, call the Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26, or contact your GP, pharmacy, usual healthcare provider or local medical clinic.
An additional COVID-19 bivalent booster is available. All New Zealanders over 30 and over can also access this booster as long as it’s been at least 6 months since their last COVID-19 booster or since a positive COVID-19 test.
People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will also be able to receive an additional booster, regardless of how many doses they’ve previously had.
With levels of social interaction back to their normal pre-Covid levels, there is a high risk that the 2023 flu season could be one of the worst experienced in many years.
Getting immunised now helps to stop the spread of flu around our community.
The vaccine is free for people at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu including:
people aged 65 years and over
Māori and Pasifika aged 55 years and over
people who have a long-term medical condition like diabetes, asthma, or a heart condition (ages 6 months+)
children aged 6 months to 12 years
people with mental health and addiction issues
Immunising your child is one of the best ways to set them up for a healthy future. It protects your tamariki from some serious preventable diseases, reduces the risk of hospitalisation and sometimes fatal illness.
Getting your child vaccinated also helps stop the spread of viruses around your community.
In New Zealand, children are immunised against 13 preventable diseases, including whooping cough, chickenpox and measles. These immunisations are free for babies, children, adolescents, and pregnant people.
It’s recommended that immunisations are given at specific times throughout your child’s life, between six weeks and four years old, with further immunisations at 11 or 12 and 18 years. The National Immunisation Schedule A provides a timetable of when your child should get these immunisations to ensure they get the best possible protection against disease.
Pregnant people are encouraged to get vaccinated against flu and other diseases such as whooping cough, to provide immunity for their unborn baby from these illnesses.
Children can also get additional vaccinations to protect them against the flu from 6 months old and COVID-19, if they’re over 5 years old.
Some children may also need extra immunisations if they have long-term conditions, such as diabetes.
Immunisation saves lives, so it’s important your child has all their immunisations. If your child has missed any immunisations, it’s not too late to catch up.
To find out if your child is up to date with their immunisations, or to get your child immunised talk to your doctor or practice nurse.
This is important when visiting people at a higher risk of becoming seriously unwell, like older people and kaumātua, and those with other health conditions. We need to be particularly careful when we’re at places with vulnerable people, like aged residential care facilities, and hospitals.
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, or have had viruses in the past, continuing to wear a face mask is important in keeping you, your whānau and your community safe.
Respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and the flu are highly infectious and can be spread in crowded indoor spaces.
A good way to reduce your chance of getting infected, and of infecting others, is by wearing a well-fitting face mask.
It is a good idea to wear a face mask to help limit the spread of viruses and prevent you from inhaling infectious particles.
If you’re infectious, a face mask can stop those same particles from spreading to others, protecting those around you and helps to reduce their risk of being infected.
Coming down with something? Let your body go to work and rest at home.
Stay at home if you are feeling unwell and take a test if you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms.
a runny nose
loss of smell or taste
shortness of breath.
Be prepared and have Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) at home. You can also request free RAT tests Request a RAT | Te Whatu Ora (covid19.health.nz)
COVID-19 Testing and isolation
The symptoms of flu can be similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Both spread easily, so if you feel sick, stay home and take a COVID-19 test. It’s a good idea to have rapid antigen tests (RATs) at home for when you need them.
- You can get free RATs by visiting www.requestrats.covid19.health.nz or calling 0800 222 478 and choosing option 3.
- RATs can be collected from collection centres, some testing centres and participating pharmacies, detailed on the Healthpoint website
- If you live rurally (more than 20 minutes’ drive from a published RATs collection site), or you face challenges collecting the RATs yourself, call 0800 222 478, you might be eligible for a RAT delivery service.
RATs are the recommended way to test for the general public. General practice and urgent care clinics can still do PCR testing, if required.
- Please report positive and negative results for rapid antigen tests (RATs) on the My Covid Record website. This connects you with the help and support you may need.
- People with COVID-19 need to isolate for 7 days. Find advice on the COVID-19 Health Hub, or call the COVID Healthline on 0800 358 5453.
- You are called a household contact if you live with, or spend a night with, someone who has COVID-19. Household contacts should test daily for 5 days with a RAT. You do not need to isolate but monitor for symptoms and take precautions such as regular hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
- If you have other health conditions, and have tested positive for COVID-19, talk to your GP, community pharmacy, or local healthcare provider as soon as possible. You may be eligible for medicine to help manage your COVID-19.
- If your symptoms get worse or you are concerned about someone you care for, seek help. Call Healthline on 0800 611 116. It’s free and you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- For information and advice about COVID-19, call the COVID Healthline anytime for free on 0800 358 5453
- For most people reinfection with COVID-19 is not likely to be more severe than previous infections. However, you can experience different symptoms.
- Every time you get COVID-19, it increases your risk of getting long COVID and other medical issues.
- If you get COVID-19 again, you will have access to the same advice, help and support you would receive for a new COVID-19 infection.
28 days or fewer since a previous infection
If you get COVID-19 symptoms again and it has been 28 days or fewer since your previous infection:
- There is no need to take a RAT
- You should say home and recover until 24 hours after you no longer have symptoms.
- If you have an underlying health condition or your symptoms are getting worse, you should get advice from a health practitioner or by calling the COVID Healthline on 0800 358 5453.
29 days or more since a previous infection
If you have COVID-19 symptoms again and it has been 29 days or more since a previous infection, you should take a RAT. If it is positive, you must self-isolate and follow the same advice as for your first infection. If your test is negative:
- Your symptoms could be another illness, such as cold or flu
- If your symptoms continue, you should repeat a RAT 48 hours later
- If your result is still negative, stay at home at least 24 hours after your symptoms resolve.
- Reinfection is when you get COVID-19 again after a previous infection.
- It is unclear how common reinfection with COVID-19 is. But reinfection is likely to become more common as new variants and subvariants spread.
Medicines to treat COVID-19
Most people who get COVID-19 experience a mild to moderate illness. They can safely recover at home. Some people, like older whānau, kaumatua, and those with other health conditions, are at a higher risk of becoming seriously unwell with COVID and going to hospital.
There are medicines to treat COVID-19. These medicines are a 5-day course of tablets that can be taken at home, to help manage the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
They are prescribed to people with COVID-19, who are at a higher risk of becoming significantly unwell. They must be taken within 5 days of a person first becoming unwell with COVID.
If you are Māori or Pacific, have complex health needs, are over 65, unvaccinated or have a disability, please speak to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or health practitioner about whether these medicines are suitable for you.
If you are not enrolled with a doctor, a clinical assessment will be carried out by the nearest COVID-19 Care Coordination Hub.
For information and advice about COVID-19, call the dedicated COVID-19 Healthline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free on 0800 358 5453 or on +64 9 358 5453 if you have an international SIM.
Develop a winter plan for your whānau so family members know what to do if people become unwell, whether it’s COVID-19, the flu or another winter illness. Understand what is expected of you by your employer if you become sick.
If you have an underlying health condition - be prepared and check the supply of your regular medications and arrange your next prescription before they run out.
As we head into winter, it is important to look after our health, wairua (spirit), hinengaro (mind), relationships, and overall wellbeing.
Some people are particularly prone to the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that's related to the change of season from summer to winter. SAD may be mild for some people, but for others, SAD is seriously disabling and prevents them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment.
You should not ignore SAD, as it can be effectively treated. If you think you are experiencing SAD, talk to your doctor and check out the Mental Health Foundation website, for more information on SAD.
It’s important to develop or maintain routines through winter to look after your mental wellbeing. These routines or habits will help you now, and into the future.
• There are a few simple things you can do every day to support your mental wellbeing:
Stay connected with friends and whānau.
Stick to a schedule or routine as best you can.
Move your body daily.
Get outside and spend time in nature. o Limit your time online and the amount of news you follow
Notice and appreciate small moments of joy.
The Mental Health Foundation website and campaign ‘Allsorts’ has practical tips, stories, and resources focused on things we can all do to maintain our mental wellbeing and look after our whānau while living with COVID-19 in our communities.
• Need to talk? (1737 – free call or text) any time for support from a trained counsellor
• The Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions
• Healthline 0800 611 116
• Youthline 0800 376 633
• The Lowdown Text 5626 for support to help young people recognise and understand depression or anxiety
• Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
You can get free health advice and information from Healthline nurses, paramedics, advisors, and doctors (who can help with prescriptions). If you can’t access a GP, or you don’t currently have a GP, you’re not sure about something call 0800 611 116 anytime, day or night.
You can choose to speak with a Māori clinician (if you’re calling 8am-8pm). Interpreters are available.
You can get health advice from your local pharmacist. Your local pharmacist can also help with advice about cold and flu symptoms, and a range of other minor ailments. Some pharmacies also offer immunisation for influenza, pertussis, MMR, and COVID, blood pressure measurement and monitoring, blood glucose and blood cholesterol tests.
Your local healthcare provider, such as your general practice; they may also be able to see you via telehealth.
If you become increasingly unwell, have underlying health conditions, or you are concerned about your health, call your GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 anytime for free health advice and information.
If you have a sick child with breathing difficulties, seek medical care from your doctor immediately. You can call Healthline on 0800 611 116 anytime for free health advice and information. If it’s an emergency, call 111.
If it’s an emergency, call 111.
For accurate and reliable information on how to manage colds and flus visit Healthify He Puna Waiora (previously Health Navigator NZ) or KidsHealth
The dedicated Disability Healthline 0800 11 12 13 has been supporting members of the disability community with testing, face mask exemptions and managing COVID at home. The helpline team can also help with:
Any general health concerns
If a support worker/carer is unavailable or hasn’t arrived
Connecting you with the information and support you need.
You can contact them via phone 0800 11 12 13 or text 8988. If you need assistance, you can access it using the NZ Relay Service
A person with experience or knowledge of disability will answer your call from 8am – 8pm. After 8pm, calls are answered by a trained member of the Healthline team.