When to wear a face mask
Where you must wear a face mask
You must wear a face mask at most healthcare services.
For example, you must wear a face mask when visiting:
- doctors' clinics
- community and iwi health providers
- pharmacies — but not those inside supermarkets
- urgent care services, such as after-hours clinics
- dentists and oral health services
- disability support services
- residential care for older people and people with disabilities
- other health services such as optometrists and physiotherapists.
For patients and workers at healthcare services, face mask requirements will be decided locally. The Ministry of Health has information for staff about using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks.
You do not need to wear a face mask if:
- you live at a residential care service
- you visit psychotherapy, counselling, or mental health and addiction services.
Where face masks are recommended
We strongly recommend patients at any healthcare service wear a face mask if they can.
Some healthcare services may ask you to wear a face mask whatever your reason for being there.
We encourage you to wear a face mask if you are:
- a Household Contact and testing daily for 5 days
- at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
- keen to reduce your risk of becoming sick.
We also encourage you to wear a face mask in these places:
- public transport, including buses, commuter trains, indoors on ferries and flights
- crowded places
- enclosed spaces with poor ventilation
- close contact settings, such as face-to-face conversations.
Some places, such as workplaces, special events or marae, may still ask you to wear a face mask.
Face masks remain an important defence against COVID-19. The government will regularly review their use.
Video: Supporting those unable to wear face masks
If you cannot wear a face mask
Face masks are unsuitable for some people due to disabilities or health conditions.
If you cannot wear a face mask, you can apply for a Mask Exemption Pass. It can help make it easier to explain that a face mask is unsuitable for you.
You do not have to show a Mask Exemption Pass — but it may help you feel more comfortable.
Advice if you cannot wear a face mask
Sometimes the reason why a face mask is unsuitable for you is not obvious to others. Do not worry if someone asks whether you can wear a face mask. They just want to help keep you and others safe.
It is inappropriate for someone to ask about your disability or condition. But it is reasonable for them to check whether you are exempt from the rule to wear a face mask.
Keeping up healthy habits
If you cannot wear a face mask, these healthy habits will help keep you and others safe:
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Keep a 2-metre distance from people you do not know.
- Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands often.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
You can also consider if there are delivery or click-and-collect options you could use. Or ask family and friends to pick things up for you.
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