People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Advice for people who are at higher risk of more severe illness if they get COVID-19.

Who is at higher risk of COVID-19

You are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 if you:

  • have compromised immunity
  • have a high-risk medical condition
  • are older
  • are an infant under the age of 1 month
  • are a child under the age of 2 who was born premature (less than 37 weeks)
  • are a child with multiple chronic conditions.

Staying safe

Our restrictions have eased, but we still need to keep up healthy habits to keep ourselves and our whānau safe. Our high vaccination rates mean we can slowly start to focus on returning to a normal way of life.

For some people, the easing of restrictions can be stressful — especially if we have friends or whānau who are vulnerable. It is okay to feel scared or anxious as we adjust to the new settings. You can decide what additional measures suit you best.

Let whānau, friends, neighbours and colleagues know what they can do to support you.

If you are worried, talk to your doctor or health professional for advice.

How to protect yourself

  • Get your booster if you are eligible. If you have not been vaccinated yet, talk to your doctor or health professional for advice. Vaccine advice if you have a health condition.
  • Keep a safe distance away from people you do not live with — except for your carer or support workers.
  • Wear a face mask whenever you leave home. If you have visitors at home, ask them to wear a face mask.
  • Ask friends or whānau who do not live with you to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) before they visit.
  • Stay at home if you are unwell.
  • Get tested if you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms as soon as you start to feel unwell — even if the symptoms are mild. Doing a test and reporting the result in My Covid Record means you can get the help you need as early as possible.
  • Try to avoid large crowds — if the supermarket is busy, try again later, or use other options like click and collect.
  • If possible, arrange to meet with friends and whānau outside. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask them to wear a face mask.
  • If you are gathering indoors, let fresh air in to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. Even though the number of people who can gather indoors has increased, organisers still need to follow public health guidelines to keep everyone safe. You could ask the organisers for a livestream option, if you feel more comfortable participating from home.
  • Stay connected — if you are not ready to start socialising in large groups, find other ways to keep in touch with close friends and whānau.

Free face masks

If you are at higher risk of severe illness, you can get free P2/N95 face masks when you pick up rapid antigen tests (RATs) from a testing centre. You do not need to be unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. You still need to order through the Request free COVID-19 RAT kits website.

Request free RATs | Ministry of Health(external link) (external link)

Find a testing site that offers free face masks | Healthpoint(external link) (external link)

Vaccination advice if you have tested positive for COVID-19

Even if you have had COVID-19, you should still get any COVID-19 vaccinations you are eligible for. 

We recommend you wait 3 months after testing positive before getting any COVID-19 vaccination.

If you are at high risk of getting seriously ill if you do test positive for COVID-19 again, we recommend you talk to your doctor or health professional for advice on the best timing for your vaccinations. You may be able to receive your vaccination sooner.

Going to work and school

Going to work

As restrictions ease, your employer may ask you to return to the workplace. We encourage you to talk to your employer about flexible working arrangements.

If you have been working from home for a long time, it can take a while to adjust back to working in an office or other workplace.

Let your colleagues and employer know if there is something they can do to make working easier and safer for you.

If you work in an area where there is a high risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as some healthcare settings, you can discuss and agree with your employer a risk assessment and options for different ways of working.

Going to school or kura

If your child is immunocompromised, or at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, talk to their school or kura about whether changes can be made at their school.

The best way to protect your tamariki is by getting them vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vaccination advice for 5 to 11 year olds

If you live with or are visiting someone who is at higher risk

You can support friends and whānau by:

  • meeting outside where there is better ventilation. You may want to wear a face mask if it is difficult to keep a safe distance away
  • isolating away from them if you test positive for COVID-19, or are unwell
  • offering to drop off groceries or essential supplies
  • not visiting them if you are unwell
  • keeping in touch with them, and checking up on their physical and mental wellbeing
  • checking if their aged residential care facility has extra measures in place for visitors
  • being kind and showing compassion for others. Give other people space, and keep a safe distance away.

Where to get support

Information Number
General COVID-19 Healthline — care and support 0800 358 5453
Where and how to get a test 0800 222 478
How to report your rapid antigen test (RAT) results 0800 222 478
COVID-19 Welfare Line 0800 512 337
Whānau Ora — access to health and welfare support North Island: 0800 929 282; South Island: 0800 187 689
Support for Pacific People 0800 652 535
South Seas Healthcare 0800 31 13 31 option 1
The Fono (Pasifika only) 0800 366 648
Community-based health and social support services in your area 0800 211 211
Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254
Plunket Line 0800 933 922
Healthline — for advice on other health matters 0800 611 116

Financial support

There may be financial support for some people in situations where they need to stay away from work and cannot work from home.

Financial support

COVID-19 support

You can find support to access food and other essential supplies, and if you need help with accommodation.

COVID-19 support

Wellbeing helplines and support

Find helplines that are available if you are not coping or have concerns for others.

Wellbeing helplines and support

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