Wear a face covering

Face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. They stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs or sneezes. This includes someone who has COVID-19 but feels well or has no obvious symptoms.

When you are leaving your home

In general, face coverings should be worn whenever you can. The Delta variant is more transmissible by droplets, so face coverings are a way we can protect ourselves and each other.

Alert Level 1

We encourage you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distance from others, like in crowded indoor places.

You legally must wear a face covering when:

  • on public transport
  • on flights.

Alert Level 2, 3 and 4

We encourage you to wear a face covering and keep 2 metres distance from others when leaving your home.

If you are around people you do not know, it is a good idea to wear a face covering.

Our movements at Alert Level 3 and 4 are restricted, so some of these locations and services may not be open or operating at higher Alert Levels.

You must wear a face covering when:

  • on public transport and at arrival and departure points, for example airports, train stations and bus stops
  • on ferry services carrying passengers between the North and South Islands
  • on flights
  • in taxis or ride share vehicles
  • visiting a healthcare or aged care facility
  • inside a retail business, for example supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, shopping malls, indoor marketplaces, takeaway food stores
  • inside a vet clinic
  • inside public venues, such as museums and libraries, but not swimming pools
  • visiting the public areas within courts, tribunals, local and central government agencies, and social service providers
  • in an indoor setting at a high school in Alert Level 3, for example a classroom and assemblies. This includes students in Years 9 to 13 and staff.

When you are at work

Alert Level 1

You legally must wear a face covering if you are a driver of:

  • a taxi or ride-share vehicle
  • public transport.

Alert Level 2, 3 and 4

You legally must wear a face covering if you are an employee involving customer contact at most businesses or services.

Our movements at Alert Level 3 and 4 are restricted, so some of these locations and services may not be open or operating at higher Alert Levels.

You must wear a face covering if you work:

  • in a public-facing area at a supermarket, dairy, petrol station, licensing trust, pharmacy, food bank, self-service laundry, hardware store, butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, shopping mall, bank or at New Zealand Post
  • in a public-facing area at a retail store that is open at Alert Level 2
  • as a delivery driver to residential addresses — delivery drivers only need to wear a face covering when they are out of their vehicle
  • at a cafe, restaurant, bar, nightclub, soup kitchen or any other food or drink business in a customer-facing role
  • for a close contact service — for example, barbers, hairdressers or beauty therapists
  • at a vet clinic
  • at a social gathering
  • in an indoor setting at a high school when at Alert Level 3, for example in classrooms and assemblies
  • in a public-facing area at an indoor public facility — for example, a library or museum
  • in the public-facing area of a court, tribunal, local or central government agency or social service provider
  • as a driver of a taxi, ride-share vehicle, ferry, bus or train used for public transport — this excludes school buses and ferries between the North Island and South Island.

Working safely at different Alert Levels

Face covering posters for businesses

Workers in places like office buildings or factories are not required to wear a face covering. Employees working in public-facing places such as swimming pools, event facilities (such as cinemas or conference centres), or gyms are encouraged but not required to wear a face covering.

When you do not need to wear a face covering

In general, face coverings should be worn whenever you can. If you are around people you do not know, it is a good idea to wear a mask.

We know people want to do the right thing, in these locations you are not required to wear a face covering, but we strongly encourage you to if possible.

  • Hospitality venues — people cannot eat while wearing a face covering. As a customer you will be seated and separated, you are not required to wear a face covering. But are encouraged to wear one when you are not eating or drinking. Employees must wear a face covering.
  • Going to barbers, beauty therapists and hairdressers or accessing other close contact businesses, a face covering can become impractical in these situations. You are encouraged to wear one if possible. Employees must wear a face covering.
  • If you work in an environment that does not have customers or is not public facing, for example an office or factory floor.
  • Worship or faith-based gatherings, for example church services.
  • At schools or tertiary education facilities — we strongly encourage anyone 12 and over to wear a face covering. At Alert Level 3, students in Years 9 to 13 and staff at high schools need to wear a face covering in all indoor settings at a high school, for example classrooms and assemblies.
  • Special interest education, such as music lessons, art groups and girl guides — you are encouraged to wear a face covering but it is not required.
  • When exercising, this includes outside, at a gym, group exercise and dance classes.

Who does not need to wear a face covering

We know that some people who have a disability or health condition may not be able to wear a face covering safely or comfortably. Please be mindful of this. They still have the right to food, pharmacies and other services.

In general, face coverings should be worn whenever you can. The Delta variant is more transmissible by droplets, so face coverings are a way we can protect ourselves and each other.

If you are around people you do not know, it is a good idea to wear a mask.

Face coverings do not need to be worn:

  • by children under 12
  • by students on school buses
  • on a boat or ship that has no enclosed space for passengers, for example jet boat tours
  • on charter or group tours
  • on private flights
  • by drivers, pilots, staff or crew of the service if they are in a space completely separated from passengers, for example pilots in a cockpit, train drivers in a train cab, captain on a ferry.

You also do not need to wear face coverings if:

  • it is unsafe, for example if wearing one means a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle
  • there is an emergency
  • you have a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability that makes wearing a face covering unsuitable
  • you need to prove your identity
  • you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • you need to take medicine
  • you need to eat or drink, if eating or drinking is usually allowed
  • it is not required by law. 

Exemption card for face coverings 

We know that some people who have a disability or health condition may not be able to wear a face covering safely or comfortably. If you cannot wear one, you can get an exemption card. You can show your exemption card when needed.

You can request a card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or emailing them at info@dpa.org.nz.

Types of mask or face covering

Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe. They are particularly useful when physical distancing is not possible.

Face coverings are an extra protective physical barrier to prevent you from spreading diseases to others. It could also help protect you from becoming infected. A face covering needs to go over your nose and mouth. A face shield is not effective as a face covering.

A suitable reusable or disposable face covering is needed to help protect against the airborne spread of COVID-19.

  • A single-use face covering can only be worn once, and we recommend you throw it away after wearing it.
  • Fabric reusable face coverings can be washed and reused.

Many stores and online retailers now offer face coverings. If you do not have a face covering, you do not need to buy one. You can make one with what you have available at home.

How to make a face covering

How to wear a face covering safely

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