COVID-19 symptoms

What the COVID-19 symptoms are, how fast they appear and what to do if you have any symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • a new or worsening cough
  • a fever of at least 38°C
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose 
  • temporary loss of smell.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are like other illnesses that are much more common, such as colds and flu.

Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

Less common symptoms

Some people may have less common symptoms such as only:

  • fever
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • confusion and irritability.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor, Healthline or your iwi health provider.

Time for symptoms to appear

Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after infection. A person with COVID-19 can pass it on to others from up to 2 days before showing symptoms.

If you have any symptoms

Talk to a health professional

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call:

  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
  • your doctor, or
  • your iwi health provider.

A health professional will tell you whether you fit the criteria for testing. Call your doctor before visiting.

If you’re outside New Zealand call +64 9 358 5453 or your doctor.

While you have symptoms

  • Stay home. Do not go to work or school. Do not socialise.
  • Call your doctor or Healthline and check if you should get tested.
  • Wash your hands. 
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, and disinfect shared surfaces often.
  • If health authorities tell you to self-isolate, do so immediately. If you're waiting for test results you'll also need to self-isolate. 

Information about testing for COVID-19

How COVID-19 spreads

Like the flu, COVID-19 is usually spread from person to person. People can catch the virus through their eyes, nose or mouth.

Scientific evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads by droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus.

People may get infected by the virus if they touch surfaces or objects that an infected person has touched, or if droplets have settled there. 

People could also get infected if droplets remain in the air. While it is unlikely people will get infected this way, the risk becomes higher:

  • in enclosed spaces that do not have good airflow
  • in crowded places
  • during loud conversations.

Keep up good hygiene

Because of how COVID-19 spreads, good hygiene is important at all times. 

  • Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance from people you do not know.
  • Clean or disinfect shared surfaces often.
  • Wear a face covering.
  • If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453.


Long COVID describes the symptoms that continue or develop after the initial COVID-19 symptoms. This is usually longer than 4 weeks after a person is first infected.

Most people who get COVID-19 recover completely. However, some people report a range of symptoms beyond the standard time of recovery.

Symptoms of long COVID can persist for weeks or sometimes months. They can include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • low mood
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating, cognitive impairment or 'brain fog'
  • chest pain
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches and pains
  • muscle weakness
  • ongoing changes to smell or taste
  • fast-beating or a 'pounding' heart
  • sleep disturbances.

For support with management and treatment of long COVID, seek help from your GP or healthcare team.

You can find more information about long COVID on the Ministry of Health website.

Long COVID (external link)

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