Wear a face covering

Face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing face coverings helps stop the spread of COVID-19

Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe. 

A face covering helps 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.

Face coverings are particularly useful when physical distancing is not possible.

Face coverings are only 1 part of keeping yourself and others safe. Our strategy to protect New Zealand against COVID-19 is based on our border protections, testing, contact tracing and other public health measures, like washing hands and physical distancing. Face coverings are an extra protective physical barrier to help keep people safe.

Face coverings at Alert Level 1 

At Alert Level 1, there is still a risk of COVID-19 returning to the community.

Public transport and domestic flights

You legally must wear a face covering:

  • on public transport
  • on domestic flights
  • by taxi and ride-share drivers — while it’s not compulsory for passengers to wear them, we strongly encourage you to.

There are exemptions for some people and services

Drivers and transport operators will not stop people without face coverings from boarding public transport. This is because some people will have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering.  

However, where possible, drivers will be encouraging passengers to wear a face covering.

Elsewhere

We encourage you to wear face coverings when you cannot maintain physical distance in crowded indoor places, like in supermarkets.

Face coverings at Alert Level 2

At Alert Levels 2 and above the risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher. So, wearing a face covering is more important.

Public transport and domestic flights 

You legally must wear a face covering:

  • on public transport
  • on domestic flights
  • by taxi and ride-share drivers — while it’s not compulsory for passengers to wear them, we strongly encourage you to.

There are exemptions for some people and services

Drivers and transport operators will not stop people without face coverings from boarding public transport. This is because some people will have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering.  

However, where possible, drivers will be encouraging passengers to wear a face covering.

Elsewhere

At Alert Level 2, when not on public transport, we recommend you consider wearing a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distance from people you do not know.

Face coverings at Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, the risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher.

Public transport and domestic flights

You legally must wear a face covering:

  • on public transport
  • on domestic flights
  • by taxi and ride-share drivers — while it’s not compulsory for passengers to wear them, we strongly encourage you to.

There are exemptions for some people and services

Drivers and transport operators will not stop people without face coverings from boarding public transport. This is because some people will have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering.  

However, where possible, drivers will be encouraging passengers to wear a face covering.

Elsewhere

You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when you're outside your home and in a place where it’s hard to keep your distance from other people.

Who does not need to wear a face covering

Face coverings do not need to be worn: 

  • by children under 12
  • by students on school buses
  • by passengers in taxis or ride-share services, but drivers are required to
  • on ferry services carrying passengers between the North and South islands
  • on pre-booked public transport services — bus or train services that collect your contact details before they depart, and allocate you a seat
  • on 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 or train drivers in a train cab.

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. 

Drivers and transport operators will not stop people without face coverings from boarding public transport. This is because some people will have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering.  

However, where possible, drivers will be encouraging passengers to wear a face covering.

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, for example to a bus driver. 

You do not need to have an exemption card, but you may feel more comfortable showing something official to confirm you cannot wear a face covering.

Get an exemption card

If you think you need an exemption card, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

You can get a printable version, or a card that you can show on your phone. If these are not suitable, Healthline will talk through other options with you.

If you prefer, you can download a card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ, or contact them on 04 801 9100 or at info@dpa.org.nz

Download exemption card for face coverings (external link)

Video: Why we wear a face covering on planes and public transport

How to wear a face covering safely

When you wear a face covering, it's important you use it safely.

How to wear a face covering safely

Types of mask or face covering

Non-medical-grade face coverings

Most people can use non-medical-grade face coverings. These face coverings prevent the wearer from spreading diseases to others and could help protect the wearer from becoming infected.

Non-medical-grade face coverings can be either single-use or reusable.

  • 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.

Non-medical-grade face coverings do not need to conform to any standard. This means they are not used in medical settings.

You can buy non-medical-grade face coverings online or in shops like pharmacies, supermarkets and hardware stores.

If you do not have a face covering, you do not need to rush out and buy one. You can use another kind of covering, like a bandana, scarf or t-shirt.

How to make a face covering

At-risk people

At raised Alert Levels, people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are advised to avoid contact with the public. If you need to go out, and feel you are vulnerable, you may wish to discuss with your health provider whether using a medical mask is best for you.

Medical masks

Medical masks are made to be used by healthcare workers. These masks provide a protective barrier between the healthcare worker and the people they are treating to reduce transmission of infectious diseases. They are used in combination with other measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing when required. They are not reusable and must comply with the standard AS 4381:2015, or international equivalent. 

Surgical masks are worn by healthcare professionals during healthcare procedures. They generally have a higher level of quality testing and are designed to reduce fluid splash and transmission of infectious diseases. 

The Ministry of Health will make sure there is enough supply and distribution of medical and surgical masks for the wider health sector. Ensuring medical, surgical and N95 (or equivalent) masks are available for healthcare workers and those working in high-risk COVID-19 settings, such as border control, continues to be a priority.

Make a face covering

Find 2 ways of making a face covering:

  • Make a face covering in under 10 seconds with no sewing.
  • Sew your own face covering.

How to make a face covering

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