People at risk of COVID-19

Advice for people with underlying medical conditions and some older people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Advice for people at risk

These guidelines will continue to be updated it as more evidence becomes available. You should work with your GP or specialist if you need help understanding your own level of risk and how best to stay healthy.

People with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and some older people are at higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19. At all Alert Levels, when you leave the house you need to main physical distance and good hygiene practices.

Ministry of Health advice for people at risk (external link)

Who is at higher risk to COVID-19

People with underlying medical conditions

Underlying medical conditions include:

  • serious respiratory disease, inlcuding chronic lung disease and severe asthma that needs multiple medications and medical care
  • serious heart conditions
  • immunocompromised conditions
  • severe obesity — a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
  • hypertension that isn’t well controlled
  • diabetes that isn’t well controlled
  • chronic kidney disease
  • liver disease.

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including: 

  • having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • bone marrow or organ transplantation
  • some blood cancers
  • immune deficiencies including HIV infection
  • prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs.

Other people at risk

Those over 70

Older people, in particular those who have underlying health issues, including respiratory issues that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Residents of aged care facilities

Aged care facilities are susceptible to the rapid transmission of viruses like COVID-19.

Residents are more susceptible to illnesses due to their age and they are also more likely to have underlying health conditions.

Ethnic minorities

Overseas experience has shown a disproportionate impact from COVID-19 on ethnic minorities.

Māori, Pacific and some other ethnic minorities in New Zealand are at risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19, particularly where there exists:

  • a higher rate of chronic health conditions
  • crowded housing
  • difficulty accessing health care.

Smoking

People with a history of smoking are more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19 and be admitted to intensive care.

There are options available to help you stop smoking. You can discuss these with your GP or contact Quitline on 0800 778 778.

How to stop smoking (external link)

Pregnant women

Pregnant women in their third trimester should take extra precautions and keep themselves well at a time when the growing baby means higher oxygen demands on the mother.

If you are pregnant and work in areas where there is high risk of exposure to COVID-19, for example some healthcare settings, you should discuss and agree with your employer a risk assessment and options for working differently if needed.

If you can't safely work at your workplace, and can't work from home, you need to agree what your leave from work and pay arrangements will be with your employer. There may be financial support for some people in situations where they need to stay away from work and cannot work from home.

Learn about the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme (external link)

These leave arrangements may be important to ensure you remain eligible for paid parental leave. 

More information about parental leave (external link)

Alert Level 1 advice for at-risk people

At Alert Level 1 there are no restriction, but it is best to stay vigilant when out and about. Maintain physical distance from others if you can and keep up good hygiene practices. 

Things you can do to stay safe:

  • Keep a 2 metre distance from people you don’t know in public places and take extra care with hygiene practices.
  • Avoid touching surfaces and wash your hands before and after you leave home.
  • Wipe keys, handrails and regularly touched surfaces.
  • Avoid passing around your mobile phone to other people.

If you are working and considered at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, talk with your employer about doing a risk assessment in your workplace to look at what the risk is for you and how it can be reduced.

Alert Level 2 advice for at-risk people

At Alert Level 2 there is some freedom to move around and connect with close family, whānau and friends. If you are an at-risk person, you’ll need to take extra precautions when doing this.

Things you can do to stay safe:

  • Reconnect with smaller groups of close family, whānau and friends.
  • Try not to interact with too many people outside of your own social circle as it won’t be easy to do contact tracing if necessary.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance from people you don’t know in public places and take extra care with hygiene practices.
  • Avoid touching surfaces and wash your hands before and after you leave home.
  • Wipe keys, handrails and regularly touched surfaces.
  • Avoid passing around your mobile phone to other people.

There is more detailed guidance available for people who are at higher risk of COVID-19 at Alert Level 2. This guidance includes advice on shopping, work, socialising, travel and recreation:

Guidance for at-risk people at Alert Level 2 [PDF, 69 KB]

Alert Level 3 advice for at-risk people

There is more detailed guidance for people who are at higher risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19. This includes people who are aged 70 and over and/or have certain existing health conditions, which may put them at risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19.

Find out the list of health conditions and the guidance on how you can live your life as normally as possible, including work and enjoying safe activities, without compromising your health and wellbeing at Alert Level 3.

Essential in-home care is permitted at Alert Level 3, but services will be modified to reduce the risks of COVID-19.

It is recommended that you work with your general practitioner if you need further help understanding your own level of risk.

Guidance for at-risk people at Alert Level 3 [PDF, 609 KB]

Last modified: