COVID-19 symptoms

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

COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • a new or worsening cough
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • a fever
  • temporary loss of smell or altered sense of taste
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath (this is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate attention)
  • fatigue/feeling of tiredness.

Less common symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle pain or body aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • malaise — a general feeling of discomfort, illness or unease
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • joint pain
  • confusion or irritability.

These less common symptoms almost always occur with one or more of the common symptoms.

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.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor, Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your iwi health provider.

Time for symptoms to appear

If you get symptoms with COVID-19, you are likely to get them within 3 days of infection. But it could take up to 8 days after infection.

Sometimes people may have COVID-19, but not have any symptoms.

Some people with COVID-19 can pass it on to others 1 or 2 days before showing symptoms.

If you have any symptoms

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and get a rapid antigen test (RAT) as soon as you start to feel unwell. Doing a test and reporting the result in My Covid Record means you can be connected with any help and support you might need.

For advice, call:

  • your doctor or nurse
  • Healthline for free on 0800 222 478 and choose option 1
  • your iwi health provider, or
  • a community-based testing location
  • if you are outside New Zealand, call +64 9 358 5453 or your doctor.

How to get a COVID-19 test

If you test positive

  • If you test positive for COVID-19, we recommend you self-isolate for at least 5 days, even if you only have mild symptoms, starting at Day 0. This includes if you have had COVID-19 before.
  • Day 0 is the day your symptoms started, or when you tested positive, whichever came first.
  • Isolation means not going to work or school. 

If you have COVID-19

To further help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others:

  • wash your hands often
  • sneeze and cough into your elbow
  • disinfect shared surfaces often.

What to do when your self-isolation period ends

If you do not have symptoms anymore and you feel well after your 5 days of isolation, you can return to your normal activities. Because you can remain infectious for up to 10 days, we recommend you wear a mask if you need to:

  • visit a healthcare facility
  • visit an aged residential care facility
  • have contact with anyone at risk of getting seriously unwell.

You should discuss your return to work with your employer or your child’s return to school with their school principal. They may require additional precautions.

If you still feel unwell after isolating at home for 5 days, we recommend you stay home until you have recovered.

What to do when your isolation ends

COVID-19 healthcare is free for eligible people

If you are eligible, you do not need to pay for COVID-19-related medical costs or healthcare when you get COVID-19.

If you develop long COVID and need further appointments, you will need to pay for your visits to your doctor as you normally would. This includes prescription dispensing fees.

Eligible people include:

  • people with certain high-risk medical conditions
  • Māori
  • Pacific peoples
  • some disabled people
  • those aged 65 and over
  • anyone else that meets the criteria for access to antiviral medicines
  • refugees and asylum seekers
  • people experiencing homelessness or who are in transitional housing
  • people living in certain remote and rural locations who do not have easy access to healthcare services.

High-risk medical conditions

Who can get antivirals

If you get new COVID-19 symptoms

For most people reinfection with COVID-19 is not likely to be more severe than previous infections. But 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 do 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:

  • if you are at low risk of serious illness, you do not need to take a RAT
  • we recommend you stay home until you are recovered.

If you have an underlying health condition or have symptoms of COVID-19 that are getting worse, you should get advice from a health practitioner or 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 test with a RAT.

Get a COVID-19 test

If it is positive, you should stay at home and follow the same advice as for your first infection.  We recommended you isolate for at least 5 days, and follow the advice for people who have COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19

If your test is negative:

  • your symptoms could be another illness, such as a cold or flu
  • and your symptoms continue, you should repeat a RAT 48 hours later
  • if your result is still negative, stay home until you have recovered.

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is spread from person to person. When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs, sneezes or sings, they may spread particles containing the virus.

These particles range in size. Larger and heavier particles — droplets — quickly fall to the ground or other surfaces within seconds or minutes. Smaller particles — aerosols — can remain airborne for minutes to hours.

COVID-19 is mostly spread by aerosols, which is why clean air and good ventilation is important. Getting COVID-19 off surfaces is less common, but it is still important to clean surfaces to reduce the risk.

The risk of airborne transmission becomes higher:

  • in enclosed spaces that do not have good airflow
  • in crowded places with many people nearby
  • in close-contact situations, such as close-range conversations, singing, or shouting.

The risk is lower outside, with fewer people, and if people are widely spread.


Long COVID describes the symptoms that continue or develop after the initial COVID-19 symptoms. This is usually longer than 12 weeks after a person is first infected.

Most people who get COVID-19 recover from the acute signs and symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks. And they should be back to all activities they were doing before COVID-19 by 12 weeks. 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. For support with the management and treatment of long COVID, seek help from your doctor or healthcare team.


How to protect yourself and others

Keep up healthy habits

Healthy habits can slow the spread of the virus and help protect you, your whānau, and your community from COVID-19. Healthy habits include handwashing and wearing a face mask in healthcare settings and crowded indoor places.

Healthy habits

Get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated means if you have COVID-19, you are far less likely to:

  • get very sick
  • need to go to hospital
  • infect other people.

While a 2-dose course provides some protection against severe disease from Omicron, this protection can decrease over time. Booster doses reduce the chance of serious illness and lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.

Get your vaccine booster

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